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Thursday, January 14, 2016

My dream trip to Japan & my language efforts (わたしのやすみと日本語をは なします)

A girl can dream, right? And this one certainly has big ones.
I've always wanted to go to Japan since I was a little girl nuts about anime and martial arts. I'm happy that's one dream that's never gone away. If anything, it's gotten better over the years to bigger and more dramatic things. With dreams, the "if" is the first thing to overcome. The most important thing to remember is that there's no such thing as an "if" unless you're exploring possibilities in fiction (and even that's not solid!). The bigger challenge is the "when". I'm hoping to do this trip around my 25th birthday because one part of this vacation feels right to have it around then. Whether I'll have someone with me during the trip or not is still a mystery. But in the meantime, this is my dream itinerary, also keeping into consideration the visa travel period I currently have.
The side bar has a partial list of places I want to go to but this post will go into more detail about the activities and reasons.
  • Try Nikka Whisky in Hokkaido
This one's an obvious nerd-out for me. Ever since I started watching the asadora Massan, I've been learning about the whisky industry even if I don't necessarily drink it. But watching the show's been pushing me more and more to explore Hokkaido and see how close the climate is to Scotland's (I've been to Scotland but it's been 14 years <0_0> so my memory may be a bit spotty!). In addition, Rita Cowan-Taketsuru [dramawise - Ellie Kameyama acted by Charlotte Kate-Fox] is from the same area where my relatives live so maybe an international side-quest in Glasgow? ^_~
  • Go nerd out to Tokyo
An absolute requirement for any foreign otaku is to go nuts in Tokyo and sampling every ware possible. Activities include visiting Tokyo Disney Sea, playing tons of arcade games and riding the ferris wheel in Odaiba, doing the 1000円 challenge, buying loads of manga and gachapon figures, and making pilgrimages to Harajuku's Hachi statue and climbing to the top of Shibuya's 109 and Tokyo Tower respectably. Optional - blowing up my suitcase while doing all of these things.
  • Say 'おきに' in Osaka
おきに is another way of saying ありがとう while in Osaka. While I first got the context of this greeting more so in dramas (specifically the live action version of Grave of the Fireflies), I've seen a number of YouTube videos to figure out that it is a legitimate phrase. It can be used on its own or attached after ありがとう. Of course, I'm still learning so if you've worked with Kansai-ben, leave a comment below. :)
  • Sing the Zenko-ji song in Nagano
There's a song my martial arts teacher taught me about going to Zenko-ji temple. While he didn't specify where Zenko-ji is, educated guesses have led me to Nagano since it's the closest to his hometown. In terms of the song itself, I don't know if it's a widely-known folk song or my teacher composed it. It describes going to the temple with your friends under the moonlight.  I found it really interesting so I felt the need to add this to my bucket list. That and I want to make a proper temple visit.
  • Enjoy jazz in Kobe*
Kobe has a really impressive jazz scene and has all kinds of styles. It's the city that gave birth to famous composers and bands like Yoko Kanno & The Seatbelts. If they didn't create the styles, chances are the city gave a lot of inspiration (ex. Soil and PIMP Sessions - founded in Tokyo but inspired by Yoko Kanno) or provided fruitful ground for cover bands to flourish. In addition, the story behind Kobe's recovery after the Great Hanshi-Awashi Earthquake and the support they provided during the Fukushima-Daiichi disaster is really inspiring. I love jazz and I love good stories. Don't believe me? Watch this video:
Meguru Kisetsu by All That Jazz from the album Ghibli Jazz 2

*And for those who talk about the beef, yes, it is as delicious as people say. :)
There's also a really nice onsen/ryokan called Koya, which reopened in 2012.
  • Be a henro & complete the pilgrimage in Shikoku
This one's the central part of why I want to go to Japan besides the nerdy pilgrimage. I also want to experience the spiritual side by going through an extensive pilgrimage itinerary. On average, it takes 45 days to complete the pilgrimage (which basically takes up 1/3 of your visa time if you're a US visitor). The time can be cut in half with public transportation & biking but there's no solid account as to how long that would take. On top of that, most henro opt solely for walking when it can be just as genuine of an effort to use public transport to get to certain spots; one will be Dogo Onsen, the bathhouse that was one of the inspirations of Spirited Away. I'm planning to a mix of both during my first shot of the pilgrimage. (Yep - this is not my only trip to Shikoku I'm going to do!) Whether I'll have someone with me or go solo, that's up to fate really.
Because there's not a lot of documentation on walking and using public transport (since it's a pretty recent practice), this site has given a guess as to what that would be like. I've been referencing this site frequently. - http://www.shikokuhenrotrail.com/shikoku/walkingAndRiding.html
There's also an informative site comparing Shikoku to the famous El Camino pilgrimage - http://senguesthouse-matsuyama.com/blog/2013/08/24/camino-vs-ohenro-a-pilgrimage-throwdown-part-un/
  • Soak in the hot springs in Atami
Of course, what better way to relax and recover from an intense spiritual experience than to relax in one of the most popular resort towns ever? A fitting conclusion to an exciting first time through Japan. It may not take the entirety of 3 months, but it will certainly be a fun-filled and insightful adventure to boot.

Side quests -
  • Go to Japan during TGS and/or JumpFesta
  • Practice Aikido in Hombu Dojo and Iwakuni Iwama
  • Go to Comiket and D23 in Tokyo
  • Celebrate New Year's Eve and Day
  • Do the Kannon and Basho pilgrimages
  • Browse around gaming and anime spots (Shenmue, NANA, Studio Ghibli film locales, etc.)
  • Fly to Okinawa!
  • Bike up and down the steepest bridge in Japan
  • Carry a mikoshi during a matsuri (yes, women are starting to do this!)
If there's any other locales or activities I should try out, feel free to suggest things in the comments or tweet them to me @djmk4life. :) Thank you so much for reading this blog and here's to another year of excitement and content!

<3 DJ MK

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