It’s been a while since my last post. I’ve honestly questioned how meaningful this blog would be to my life, and I’m starting to remember how handy it is to have your own space to think and write freely without worrying about the opinions of others. So, I’ve decided to update anyone reading this on what I’ve been up to since the last post.
I visited Japan in November 2018 (see previous post) followed by another visit only a few weeks later. I returned to Australia for Christmas and to ring in 2019, but on January 2nd I took off once again, this time through Hong Kong on the way to Osaka. The purpose of the trip was my first study tour in another country. I know what you’re thinking. Of course it would be in Japan… But I’m a Japanese language student. I wanted to improve my language acquisition capabilities prior to beginning the next semester of Japanese classes at university, so immersing myself in the country I want to live in for six weeks to almost “trial” a future Japanese life gave me a greater understanding on what this future undertaking would mean and what I may need to do to make it work. Not to mention it sped up completing my degree.
I lived in Kyoto for the majority of this trip, for a minimum of four weeks as I studied at 立命館大学 (Ritsumeikan University) at their Kinugasa campus in the north of the city. I met some incredible people in Kyoto who joined me on the study tour from Australia but also who are students at the Japanese university and making friends with Japanese people, many whom I’ve kept in touch with since returning home. Whilst the primary purpose of the trip was to study the language, there were many cultural activities included and arranged by the Japanese university, including learning about Geiko and Maiko (and interviewing them), The origins of the ‘tea ceremony’, learning the art of calligraphy in a temple with a master, and so much more. Walking the city (particularly at night) gave me a real opportunity to listen to my own thoughts and feelings, and follow my own gut to wherever it may lead me. This certainly led to some unforgettable experiences, particularly in restaurants (I came back quite a bit heavier than how I left…). I would stick in my headphones and get walking, sometimes for an hour (and in one instance I think more than two hours) and take in the city with a significantly rich history sitting on the edge of ancient tradition and the next frontier of technology and innovation, noticeable by the unparalleled Shinkansen train that cuts from east to west through the city. One of the benefits of staying in the 関西 (Kansai) area of Japan is how close it is to other prominent locations, such as Osaka, Nara, Kobe, Himeji, Wakayama and so much more. Therefore during my time in Kyoto I visited many of these locations but some I had been to before so I skipped them.
After the study tour was over, I had an ambitious plan to visit a number of places I hadn’t been to before and spanning much of the country. I caught a Shinkansen from Kyoto to Hakata Station in Fukuoka, the largest city on the southernmost island in the main four-island chain of mainland Japan where I stayed with a friend for a few days. After that, I caught a Shinkansen all the way back to the capital of Japan, Tokyo, where I stayed overnight before a planned ‘retreat’ of sorts in Hakone just south of Tokyo, where I switched off and reconnected with nature and being more mindful, before returning to Australia. the photo attached to this post is of Ōwakudani, a small ‘village’ or group of buildings on the side of the main volcano crater of Mount Hakone. There was a constant smell of rotten eggs, and it somehow reminded me of the fragility of the lives that we have. The smell was a trigger in my mind that the volcano could explode at any moment (especially considering that recently there had been increased seismic activity in this area), and that it was of paramount importance I forever remind myself of where I want to take my life in the future.
I’m not getting any younger. On a daily basis I remind myself of how I wish I completed university when I was (much) younger. Having my 29th birthday whilst on this trip was a clear reminder to stay motivated and focused on what makes me happy, and to concentrate my energy on my own happiness. Everything else is just part of the journey.