When I started this blog, I determined to avoid the “and then” trap: “first we did X, and then Y, and then Z”. There’s nothing inherently wrong with that format — it makes sense for personal journals, for example, which are meant to be an intimate memento; a story that you write and later reread, flooding your brain with all the endorphins of the original experience. But if I just list everything that’s happened, my readers get bored — bullet-points aren’t captivating without knowing the significance of each item. Detailing everything has its own problems, though — I’m typing a 500-word blog post; I don’t have the time nor my readers the patience to slog through a book.
So I’ve tried to target small details, hoping to explore more than just the surface, while probing into my own mental state. I ask myself: What’s unique here and how does it make me feel? I keep the focus narrow at the expense of one or two lost adventures; but this lets each story breath, allowing for deeper analysis on what I choose to cover. Thus far, I’ve loved the format.
Japan is different.
Japan was a whirlwind. Even my expedition across America took two weeks and a lot of driving. Last week’s blog post was only about my first weekend in Japan. Eight more days, with adventures in Osaka, Kyoto, and Tokyo, are just too many to summarize in such a succinct format. I could focus on one, but how do I choose? Normally my decisions are binary. But if I write about the electric crowd at the baseball game, I miss the ancient shrines, the therapeutic onsen, and the mouth-watering ramen. If I describe the bizarre Harajuku fashion, I miss the buddhist graveyard, the overnight temple-stay, and the vibrant sakura gardens. If I detail the old Yananka streets, I miss the breathtaking views at the Umeda Sky Building and the imposing Osaka Castle. And what about the smaller details? Like why is the Shibuya Scramble, the most crowded pedestrian crossing in the world, quieter than a Starbucks? Or how crazy are the vending machines, usually selling drinks and cigarettes on every corner? How does it feel to sleep on tatami mats? Or to wear a traditional monk robe with sleeve pockets — kind of like a Jedi? Yes, exactly like a Jedi.
There are an unreasonable number of experiences to cover, questions to ask, and feelings to share. As you can see, I can’t even begin to explore their enormity. So instead, enjoy these photos of all the cool things — at least better than a bullet-point list. And just understand that my short ten day stint in Japan might have been my favourite trip this year.
Special thanks to AJ and Taylor who came along for the whole ride; to Dan, Christina, Ken, Catt, and Whitney, who I only saw briefly but wished I saw more of; and of course to Amanda, who turns everything to gold.
Photos by AJ Fraser