I started getting anxious a few days before our trip departure on Sept 2. I began questioning why we were choosing to leave our perfectly comfortable, and in many ways, luxurious, lives to live out of a suitcase, small suitcases at that. Traveling is not easy, it requires constant planning. Where are we staying tonight? What’s the currency exchange? How do we get to our next destination? Travel can test individual temperament and the best of relationships We have found that being novices together and making mistakes can lead to bonding moments of laughter or fits of frustration (which one often depends on our level of uncomfortableness). Early lessons have been that lack of food and hot sticky weather can turn us into grumpy messes.
We deliberately chose to be uncomfortable by embarking on this trip together. I don’t think we were at all prepared for how uncomfortable we would be within the first week in Japan due to the heat and humidity. The weather was in the 90s almost daily. We were often the sweatiest people within miles. The Japanese culture holds hygiene in high esteem. We were a daily affront walking among temples and shopping streets. We spent a lot of our time in big cities, Tokyo and Osaka, being bombarded by high pitched voices on loud speakers, a cacophony of hip hop music, oodles of people who need little personal space and hundreds of neon signs vying for our attention all at the same time. We got much better at navigating our way to places through the very organized but incredibly complex subway and train stations. Lucky at the beginning of our trip we were traveling with our friends Andrea and Matteo. Andrea lived in Tokyo years ago and was rekindling her Japanese language skills which were very handy. Without her help I am not sure John would have found the Tokyo Google office. After a few days Keegan mastered the ticket buying machines while we all tried to figure out which train line, going which direction on which platform to go to.
We did venture outside the cities. Nikko National Park was beautiful with temples, waterfalls, beautiful lakes and a river we were able to swim in.
We also went to Nara, near Kyoto, which was a peaceful town, depending on whether the deer knew you had deer food. The town is overrun with deer; very tame deer who would be inside stores, bus stops, temple entrances, city water fountains, in front of government buildings, and walk on sidewalks alongside you. The shops sell deer food but we soon learned that having deer food means that the deer will accost you, nibble at your clothes and crowd you to get to the food. We had to run away
We met up with my friend Ron and his wife, Yaeko, who live near Nara. Ron and I attended World College West and were in China together. They were great guides showing us the mochi making store and the sake brewery. The sparkling sake was my favorite.
We spent Keegan’s birthday in the bustling city of Osaka. We escaped the heat by going bowling as a family and having a katsu lunch.
Our friends Andrea and Mateo were also in Osaka so Keegan and Mateo spent a lot of time in the incredibly loud Round 1 arcade. It rained that afternoon so we postponed go-karting to the next day when the weather had remarkably improved with less humidity. The go karting was a super fun adrenalin rush.
Our final night was spent with a family in a suburb of Osaka making sushi, tempura and udon noodles which ended with a matcha tea ceremony. The next day we had a 9am flight to Vietnam on Viet Jet which meant being up bright and early for another travel day.