This is the planet Mercury. Just like the Roman god Mercury, it is associated with travel. Just when we were about to travel to some other side of the earth, Mercury went in retrogade. I don’t really know what retrogade means, but it is supposed that traveling will be tough. And tough it was, but fortunately, we’re tough guys as well.
Who was going were?
I went together with my friend Simon to Okinawa, a tropical island south of Japan, where karate was invented as such in the early twentieth century. A so-called gasshuku was held, a training camp and meeting place for karatekas all over the world. (the term gishiki, which means ceremony, was also used, because the organization was aiming to have goju-ryu karate registered as world heritage by UNESCO, but because there’s no category for martial arts as such, they had to find a way around).
I hadn’t been looking forward too much to the journey, because I had never been away from my family for more than one night, and didn’t have the innate drive to do so even more. But Margo had been exceptionally enthusiastic when Simon had asked me. My initial fear, of course, was that she wanted me away for a while. But then again, she travels quite often alone, enjoys it a lot, and wished for me to enjoy that too. I’d grow from it, she’d say. I suppose I did, after all.
Right. Remember Mercury? Just when we had boarded the airplane, a major disruption in Schiphol’s fuel distribution system occurred. This error was so bad, it even reached international news. We had a nice conversation with the pilot and learned a few things about aviation. The pilot told us, we might just be lucky, because our plane was tanked up halfway already. Now imagine a tank wagon. It’s a big thing, right? But it takes two of these units to get one intercontinental plane going. That’s quite a lot of kerosine about to get just burned. I felt terrible guilt creeping up.
(We suggested to stop in, for example, Hamburg for the rest of the fuel. But that was not an option, because a plane with the contents of one full tank wagon cannot yet land, because it’s way too heavy. So we’d end up somewhere near Kazachstan, and the pilot was pretty sure that wouldn’t be a great place to be for a refuel (especially with this retrogade thing going on). Rerouting the plane was also taken in consideration (for some reason refueling in Iraq seemed a comfortable idea to our captain), but for every flight, every crossed country has to give a permit. And changing course over some ten other countries requires a lot of phone calls – and time.)
But then suddenly and unexpectedly, our plane (nobody said a word about it only being half full with passengers, out of fear they’d give it to a more efficiently stuffed plane) got the rest of it’s fuel and off we were.
I find such flights always weird. Of course crossing time zones is no small intervention. But also that it is usually advisable to sleep, while there’s a little screen in front of you with so many movies, series and music of interest. It was too loud for me to sleep, so I went all feminist and watched Captain Marvel and Colette.
A little Osaka
We landed on a huge airport in Osaka, beyond schedule. A friendly smiling Japanese stewardess was holding a sheet with our names on it. Heels clicking, she escorted us hastily trough all the checks and made sure we were on the bus to another airport. We saw a lot of Osaka and were very happy that we wouldn’t be going there. It’s huge.
On the flight to Okinawa, we finally got some sleep – albeit just a powernap. There was wifi in the plane, and I was trying to figure out how to rent a bike in Naha. Our first address was on the north of the island.
Trying to talk, explain and travel
We arrived at the airport around 5 pm and we had no clue about distances and dimensions and weren’t very keen on walking to the nearest location that *might* rent us bicycles. So at the tourist information we obtained a very useful bus map and some travel advise. The lady was helpful, but seemed a little unsure, because local bus navigation obviously wasn’t her daily practice. She pointed us the route, but wanted to say “however…”, when I asked what was wrong, she just said: “never mind, you’ll get there” (without voicing “…eventually”). The “however” was later explained by the friendly bus driver, who didn’t speak any English. With hands, feet and mutual patience, he explained that we would arrive just too late for our transfer, the last ride of the day. We got on board anyway. We had been looking forward to this ride, so we’d see much of the island, but this close to the equator, it gets dark quickly.
We drove from Naha to Nago. We wanted to get out at the transfer stop, but the driver gestured us to remain on the bus. And at the bus terminal he addressed a taxi driver on our behalf. So nice!
Explaining were we had to go was another challenge. The taxi driver spoke as little English as the bus driver did, and we had to go to a remote village. With hindsight we know we had to get to a hamlet called Arume, in the Higashi Village district. But we were pointing to one place on google maps, while saying that we had to go to some other place.
Simon had the description printed, but it apparently it was difficult for the driver to read our Western script. Luckily I had brought a powerbank for the phones, so we could look up the offline Airbnb advertisement. Eventually we found a route description, everyone was terribly relieved and we also found out that “Lampo hotel” is pronounced something like “dumbo hotel”.
At the hotel more challenges were awaiting us. We had hoped to find an English speaking receptionist, who could familiarize us a bit with the possibilities of our location. But alas, apparently, we had booked a self-service hotel (without personnel), and had no clue how to enter our room – or room was ours in the first place. We discovered that wifi was present (we only could access internet via wifi), but only within the rooms. Fortunately there was a phone number and I made an extremely costly phone call to the owner, (apparently living some place far away, since every local was puzzled by it) who had lots of screaming children around him and an accent. But eventually we got the room number and the code to the key!
The road goes ever on
Tummies rumbling, we went sleeping. The next morning we woke up, free of any jetlag – just damn hungry. So we had to hunt for food, before we could enjoy the nice view on Arume Bay. According to google maps, there should be some sort of café nearby. We stumbled upon some sort of glamping for Chinese tourists, that would only open in December. However, there was a caretaker around. He was very friendly and trying to be helpful. He showed us a container filled with rental bicycles, but unfortunately wasn’t allowed to rent out any. He couldn’t provide any food either, but he was friendly enough to drive us to the nearest café. (We had long since wanted to ride in the Japanese car; most of them look really strange to us: they look like as if you have squeezed a picture horizontally without retaining the right proportions.)
At the café, there were some men, who were interested in our journey, who spoke some English. When we explained that we had no actual means of transportation, they responded with: “Oh… My… God…!”, which could only be interpreted as that we were quite screwed.
We continued walking to the actual Higashi Village and were amazed by the beautiful coastline and we enjoyed the warm water of the ocean.
In Higashi, we had been to a local grocery store. I find it hard to describe it, it was just adorable. The exterior made of rotting wood and corrugated sheets (many of Okinawa’s buildings are in a state of bad repair, probably due to the humidity), the inside crammed and quite traditional, except for a constantly talking fridge. And the shopkeeper lady was really helpful, providing us with detergent in a sandwich bag and such, free of charge.
With our hunger satisfied and the security of a rucksack full of groceries, we could finally assess our whereabouts. The climate on Okinawa is tropical: it’s hot and extremely humid. Most westerners can’t do much in this climate, save for complaining, but I do really well in these conditions. I actually thoroughly enjoy them and was usually not too happy to enter places with airconditioning.
The ocean water is warm, so no need to acclimatize, and being wet doesn’t bother you at all. When it rains, it doesn’t get cold. Neither when it gets dark. There’s no cold and I did not miss it for one second.
View from our hotel: Arume Bay
On our way back from Higashi, we tried to cross through the jungle. (Un)fortunately I had been reading about the many lethal animals, such as the habu viper, and we dared not to continue when the trail became overgrown. I have to admit, we were also a little scared of the black and yellow bird eating spiders that had webs all over the trail… After that, we also went a while through a mangrove forest, but were soon repelled by the smell and all the jumping crabs and lobsters.
Giant wood spider
On our second day, we wanted to visit Ōgimi, village of longevity, where the people turn 120. It was some 15 kilometers from our apartment and we had to walk all of it in the burning sun. The cold beer we bought at the end of the road was the best I ever had.
Somewhere between Arume and Ogimi
We tried to find Ōgimi via offline google maps, but because the whole district was called Ōgimi Village, we turned away just before entering the real Ōgimi, because we were searching for it…
We came, however, upon some ogimi-fruit farms, and picked our share. The taste of ogimi-fruit lies between lemon and lime, and for our sake, we assumed that eating fresh ogimi-fruit, at some point in ones life is the secret of living up to 120.
Back in Arume, we discovered that there were actual shops and wondered why the glamping caretaker wasn’t aware of them. Also, we walked into one of the guys from te café the other day. He invited us to a local festival. There was tug of war and sumo wrestling. When there came a sudden downpour of rain and all the villagers and us cuddled together under the festival tents and I felt welcome – a slight and temporal sense of belonging.
Shot of the Arume festival
The next day, we had to leave again. Both of us had slept badly. Because of the strong wind, we had to sleep with the balcony door closed and we missed te sound of the ocean, I guess. We were tired and cranky. I was even so tired from getting up early, that I had forgotten my rucksack in the room after closing it and depositing the keycard… Luckily I was able to pick the card from the letterbox again, but stress levels were rising.
We would be going by bus. There was a bus stop in front of the hotel, but it was no longer in use. We had to walk three kilometers to a bus stop in the middle of nowhere and just had to trust a bus would be coming. And it came! First it had to turn; probably in front of the hotel, as we had expected, but we hadn’t wanted to take any chances.
Middle of nowhere bus stop
The Japanese didn’t seem familiar with the concept of hitchhiking…
On Okinawa, you pay pretty much everything in cash, including the bus. When you enter, you draw a ticket with the number of your bus stop. In the front of the bus is a screen, where all the bus stop numbers are displayed, along with the current fee.
We had quite enough yens for our journey, but then we saw the sign that the change-maker wouldn’t accept any other bills than 1000 yen. We had very few of those. This bus driver wasn’t all too friendly and we because we had already decided not to take any chances, we got off early in Nago, while we were still sure we could pay the fee.
So there would be a lot more walking. This time through a city, while carrying backpacks.
First we decided to go to the Nago Castle Park. To our surprise it wasn’t much of a castle. It was more of a high hill were some remains of primitive walls and ditches had been found, raised by ancient settlers. The only building present, were crude reconstructions and marked ceremonial locations and had housed the priestess and some attendants. So basically, we had walked into an ancient sanctuary.
Long stairs of Nago Castle Park, with typical stone lanterns.
We had some discussion about the direction in which the buses would drive (all the information on bus stops is in Japanese characters and the camera translate feature on our phones was total wack), and in order to avoid any chance, we decided to walk to the bus station. It was a long walk. The bus we got in, took us right along the bus stop where we had started walking – so Simon had been right.
Our destination was the tropical Sesoko Island. It was connected to the main island by a big bridge. (I’m not sure how the small village on the island justifies the building of this bridge, but then again, for what we’ve seen, the Japanese are great in engineering all sorts of bridges and overways.)
Our stay was so nice, and not in the last place because of the heartily welcome we received by Yuko, the hostess of our b&b-location. She was enthusiastic about pretty much everything we said and her enthusiasm was contagious to the other guests, so we had some nice conversations, sometimes using translation machines or apps. Ha, and on every occasion we were requested to demonstrate our karate skills.
Yuko was even kind enough to give us a ride to a restaurant on the main island – and again when I discovered I had forgotten my wallet there.
The island was great for barefoot running (only early in the morning, because the asphalt would get hot soon), swimming with colorful fishes and overal relaxation. Our early days had offered of a lot of adventure, now we could finally relax.
There were two main beaches. One under the bridge with a nice pier to dive from and an official beach with a parking place and coast guards. The latter was sort of strange, because there was a delimited strip of water. We first thought the buoys around it would carry nets to keep the invisible killer jellyfish out, but those nets were up. Within the perimeters a few hundred bathers were crammed – just like in our own awful Zandvoort at a busy day. The weird thing to us was that everyone decided to just be restricted to the floating line, dodging arms and feet, while just beyond the line, the tropical beaches of everyone’s dreams were beckoning. I suppose it’s a great metaphor for leaving one’s comfortzone.
Sesoko Island coast
And we had to leave our comfort zone as well. We reluctantly had to exchange Sesoko Island for the big city, because the start of the gasshuku was drawing near. Neither of us is a city-person. We prefer the tranquility and clearness of nature over the fuss and stink of cities. But after all, we went to Okinawa for the city-based event in the first place.
(By this time, Mercury was doing fine again, by the way, so we didn’t have any difficulties reaching Naha, haha.)
We did have some trouble coming to terms with our accommodation, though. For one week, we had hired a room in Urasoe, a suburb of Naha. As heartily we were received by Yuko, so practical were received by our host. It was obvious he was only in it for the money. And the place reeked. As a matter of fact, it had a terrible atmosphere in it. I wouldn’t be surprised if it had been a murder scene not too long ago. The first other guest we saw, was a western girl, who was so upset, she completely ignored us and stormed out of the building with all her luggage. We thought it understandable. Among other shortages, there were white stains on the bedding and the bathroom was really nasty. Our windows had bars and we felt imprisoned in our you-get-what-you-paid-for room. But changing location wouldn’t be without difficulties, so we stayed, and in the end the building sort of grew on us, and we ended up being sort of content.
The shitty building we stayed in. We dubbed it ‘prison’, as it had bars for the windows. We’re not sure why, because hardly anyone closes their house, anyway.
It really surprised us that karate wasn’t really a big thing in Okinawa. Generally, people had heard of it, sure, but they didn’t have much more knowledge about it than what they knew from the Karate Kid movies. Even so, in Naha, there was a grand budokan; a building dedicated to the martial arts. There was one great hall and a few smaller dojo’s.
On the first day, all the karatekas were gathered in the budokan. I believe there were some 1400 of us. The picture below shows mokuso, a short meditation at the start of every training. To me, it is an important ritual, because it helps me focus on the training at hand, and makes me leave everything I do not need outside the dojo.
Mokuso. The middle of the front three people is Higaonna.
Over the course of several days, there were trainings, offered by senseis (teachers) from all over the world. It was interesting (and sometimes a little confusing) to see very different interpretations and accents by people all over the world. We were sorted in smaller groups, based on grade, so we could have a little more personal attention. It felt special to be training with people all over the world, who all can perform the same kata’s (series of movements) that I’ve been training so long to be familiar with.
The “grandmaster” of goju-ryu karate is the 80-years old Moria Higaonna. He was one of the reasons I decided to justify my intercontinental flight. Even though the man is strong as an ox, his health doesn’t permit him anymore to travel abroad.
One evening, I went along to his personal dojo. It is situated in a garage box below his apartment, but nonetheless, it is a very special place. In some sense, it is a bit of a site of pilgrimage.
There was no official training at the time. I trained al little on my own and also together with three other Dutchies. Being in that dojo did something to me. Even though I had been training the better part of the day, I felt extremely focused and empowered to continue hard training.
As I sat down there to meditate a little, portraits of old masters behind me, I realized I had very often been practicing karate to please others. Mostly my teachers, who would judge me when I would do a grading exam. But also I would try to impress other karatekas (or hide my incompetence as well as possible). And when alone, I still wanted to please the tradition or some invisible masters, hoping they would not turn in their graves at what they saw me doing. But then I realized that I am going my own way of the open hand (literal meaning of “karate-do”), and that the approval of others is just irrelevant. It does not mean I’ll just do whatever I like and disregard any advise, but it means I am going my road for myself. Not only in karate, but in life itself. It is about just being myself as a goal on itself, instead of living up to the expectations of others or comparing myself to others. That’s a burden I’ve started shaking of, to be more free to be me.
Within Higaonna’s dojo.
In the afternoons, we tended to loosely meet up at the Starbucks in the Kokusaidori, the main tourist shopping street. And from there we’d eat out together and have a drink. Usually at the Dojo Bar, a bar specialized in hosting performers of any kind of martial arts. The walls are painted white, and everyone is allowed to leave their mark, using waterproof markers.
The walking was far from done, because on many occasions we decided to walk back to our faraway room in Urasoe.
Eating out in Okinawa turned out to be cheaper and far more easy than trying to cook for ourselves. Shopping groceries is kind of hard if you can’t read any of the labels, and most restaurants had pictures of the meals on the menus, so you can just point, say “hai”, “arigato” and bow.
But it turned out near impossible to eat vegetarian. I’m not strictly a vegetarian, but I tend only to buy meat if I’m thoroughly reassured that the animal has been treated well during it’s life and that the production process has been sustainable. But Okinawans tend to eat just everything, so a taxi driver told us. He didn’t know of any vegetarians on the island. I’ve wrote a but about the awful deadly creatures on Okinawa, but there are also cute black pigs. Okinawans love them too. On their plates, mind you. There’s pork in everything. Even in soup, tofu meals and sushi. Every time, I tried pointing at the meal looking the most meat free, about less than half the times there was no hidden meat in it. When that happened, I just ate and was grateful to the late animal.
At one point, we went to a vegan restaurant. The prices were European, and so were the meals. We sat next to two German speaking girls. We had a nice conversation and eventually left when we had finished our dessert. However, both Simon and I had a feeling, we’d run into them again. And did we? Read on to find out!
Shinto shrine directly adjacent to the main bus terminal
Typical views of Naha
Naha had been utterly devastated in the Second World War and was rebuilt without much regard for aesthetics. It was bombed by the Americans, who are till this day still permanently based on the island. There’s an American village, and the Americans had introduced typical American stuff, such as McDonald’s and all that, which for some reason is just too easy to ingest, and ruins age-old traditions for younger generations. We noticed that, even though everyone was always very polite, there was almost always some sort of relief noticeable, when we said we were from Holland, or”Oranda” (so not from the U.S.), and then their subtle abstention would turn into enthusiasm.
Anyway, after a while we started to be quite familiar with the city and its public transport. But at times we wanted to escape the grey of the concrete city.
View from Shuri Castle
Shuri Castle Walls
The first time, we visited Shuri Castle. It was a historic site, completely rebuilt after the war (the Japanese had made their headquarters in the basement of the castle, so the Americans had completely bombed the shit out of it). I didn’t thought it was kitsch and thought it is sad that in the Netherlands old buildings are never being rebuilt to former glory – for some reason it is even prohibited to do so.
Naha City Beach. (Unfortunately, that wasn’t my bike)
Another time, we went to the city beach. It is beautifully located at the base of cliff with a temple on it, and the waters are azure. There’s one minor issue with it, though: a huge highway bridge is built across it…
Still, it was nice being on sand instead of asphalt for a while. And we also visited the temple, and prayed like the Japanese do (with bowing a fixed number of times and clapping our hands twice). We even saw some women dressed like geisha’s. Those are apparently quite uncommon in Japan, as every tourist was gazing, pointing and taking pictures of them.
There’s quite a lot of tourists on Okinawa, but most of them are from the mainland of Japan. Apparently there are Chinese as well. The difference between Japanese and Chinese in general is huge. I once entered a supermarket, and there were yelling people everywhere and many of the shelves had been plundered. At that point I realized how quiet the Japanese are and how much I appreciate that quality.
At the final day, there was a saionara (goodbye) party in a luxurious hotel suite. Ever since I’d become a dad and have a serious job, I’ve not been into partying that much anymore. But I really enjoyed the party with its “free” food and drinks. People from most countries were performing on stage (us Dutchies failed to think of an improvised entry). Some had prepared really well, some showed even signs of talent, but all of them performed enthusiastically.
Maybe you wouldn’t think so, as it is my job to constantly address groups of people, but I can be terribly shy. I was proud to overcome my shyness by approaching who I thought was the most beautiful girl present. A Bulgarian girl from Canada. We even had a very nice conversation. Just that, of course, for I’m a faithful husband. It sounds ironic that such a thing might actually have been one of the reasons that my wife had wanted me to travel without her: so I would do things I otherwise wouldn’t have, and consequently overcome some stuff and learn other stuff.
During the gasshuku, everyone was telling me I had a doppelganger, and at the party I finally got to meet him. It was an Australian, accompanied by some friendly friends. Because the party was being closed down at that time, they invited us to tag along to Rehab. A “secret” pub of sorts.
We went along, but at the first crosswalk, we ran into acquaintances: the German speaking girls from the vegan restaurant. We discussed the sheer odds of meeting again in such a big city, but as said, both Simon and I had had a hunch.
Because of the encounter, we lost track of the Australians and had to find Rehab on our own. All we found in the Kokusaidori were other karatekas, trying to find this secret pub. At some point, we finally found it. But we left quite soon. When we were searching fot the pub, especially the British had been busy drinking much. There were even some senseis among them, which I found somewhat difficult to behold. Of course I didn’t expect them to be saintly and all and not allowed to any worldly fun. But I prefer to see them, bearing some composure. The people in the pub were too loud for me to appreciate without further drinking. I considered doing so, but dismissed the idea, because I wouldn’t want to spend our final full Okinawan day all groggy.
The sacred island
When I’m traveling, the places that interest me most are sacred sites. In European cities, those are usually cathedrals. In the countryside, there are sometimes dolmens, stone circles, standing stones, groves and springs to be found. Such places usually have a certain quality, an energy if you please, that can be described as “holy” or “sacred”, which separates them from other everyday “mundane” places. If you are just quiet, you should be able to experience this very quickly.
On Okinawa there are shrines everywhere. A few major ones, such as the one we had been to in Nago, many small altars within houses or public space and tombs. They are associated with the Shinto tradition. Shinto can be considered Japan’s primal religion. It deals with all kinds of kami: spirits of trees, rocks, ancestors or personified forces of nature. It is my impression that the people generally do not believe in such Shinto notions, but that they perform the rituals nonetheless. Because it is tradition.
Typical graveyard. This particular one included parking lot and picknick tables.
This final day, we planned to visit Kudaka Island, the sacred island. According to myth, the gods who created the Ryukyu Islands (including Okinawa) descended from heaven and first set foot on Kudaka.
We went by ferry. The fast ferry. It went fast, indeed. There were children aboard, who shouted with joy every time we went up and down the waves. For the first time, this vacation, we managed to rent a bicycle. The bicycles were cute: rusty and with soft tires, totally too small for Dutch long-shanks.
Before I’ll try to describe my awe for the island, I’d like to mention some creatures also inhabiting the place. There were striped sea snakes, which are twenty time as venomous as the habu’s on land. Great. At least you could buy them dried or grind to broth powder in the shops. It was a relief they are supposed to be mainly active after nightfall.
Then there are the friendly neighborhood spiders. Huge, yellow and black. We had seen them before near Higashi, but on Kudaka, they were bigger and in abundant supply.
And the third critter that I found somewhat intimidating were the huge purple-blue lobster people. They’d point at us with their limbs and make scary sounds. Eventually, they turned out to be only hermit crabs. Those are actually everywhere on the island, and actually quite cute, as they always try to hide in panic, resulting in randomly jumping rocks. But the ones we found near a hidden forest cave where just so big, we figured they might’ve been some kami’s physical form.
Kudaka’s spiders – almost that big!
There were beautiful beaches everywhere. At first we stopped at every sign of a beach, but after a while, we just biked on. Unfortunately we missed the starsand beach; one where the sand is supposed to consist of minuscule starfish.
Cape Kaberu was definitely a very special place. It is the northernmost tip of the island, where according to myth the creation goddess Amimikyu had arrived first. It was a beautiful and rough beach, with this special quality I mentioned before to it. The place invited us to perform a little ceremony in our own way.
I went dancing with the waves
Simon performing sanchin kata
We also came across a sacred grove. Until recently, only women were allowed to enter. Currently, entry is forbidden to al. We couldn’t find out why. But curiosity got the better of us, and we sneaked along the path. We came to a round clearing, with an amazing atmosphere. This was truly a special place, and I could understand why the local clergy wouldn’t want tourists to just trample around the place. So we respectfully didn’t enter the circle and returned to where we were allowed to be.
We had a great time exploring the isle. We found ancient springs, wells and a forest, wherein a god in the form of a horse is said to reside. Apart from all the living myths, legends and sacred sites, the overall atmosphere was friendly and relaxed. It was good being there.
Simon at a spring
Unfortunately we returned too late to the mainland to be able to visit Sefa-utaki, another sacred site, made of standing stones. We might have just been able arrive on time, If we hadn’t budget our feet to the cat eyes along the road, and I hadn’t asked for a band aid in the local ice saloon. It was not meant to be, I suppose. But maybe for the best. Kudaka was open and free, and Sefa-utaki might just have been hyped by tourism in the same way Stonehenge in England is, ruining the chance of an authentic experience.
Life is good on Kudaka Island
At the final day, we went shopping for souvenirs in Naha. We paid some actual attention to the shops in the Kokusaidori. I bought shiisaa: two lions characteristic for Okinawa. They are protective agents, having complementary dualistic qualities and symbolizing the “a” and “un” sounds, which would be a-un, equivalent to the Indian aum.
This may sound strange, but the whole of the journey over a small island amidst the ocean, we had never seen a sunset. We were either inside, stuck in the jungle, on the wrong side of the hill or within the big city.
Our plane left at sunset time. But then the plane turned in such a way we couldn’t see the sun, and was delayed subsequently, so that the no-Oikiawan-sunsets-for-Oskar-and-Simon-curse could strike again. But what the curse had forgotten to take in consideration, was that an airplane (when it eventually takes off) rises to great heights and thanks to Earth’s curvature, we were finally able to glance at the last shred of sun sinking into the ocean. That was a fine last glance to the land of the rising sun.
Just before I saw the sun set again
It took me a lot of evenings to write all this. Well done if you got all the way to this point. I could’ve written a lot more, for example about my nightly adventures on a near deserted Korean airport, the conversations I had with Korea-based Welshmen or my sudden journey to France with my family the same day I arrived in Amsterdam. But a tale has to have an end at some point.
Traveling is most rewarding, because being among other cultures forces you to reflect on your values and habits, making you more aware of what you are doing, and the relativity of it all. Adventuring drags you from your comfortzone and forces one to be creative and aware of the possibilities at hand and your own devices.
I’ve learned a lot on the journey, met many new people and learned to appreciate much more. It was great to be with Simon, who as it turned out, was 20 years older than I am. But I consider him a good friend and I am happy to have shared this journey with him.
Japan has some great virtues. The tranquility of the people, the politeness, the appreciation of tradition, and so many more things. I could write another piece on that.
I’ve also learned that, while traveling is great, it is even better to do all the mentioned where you are right now. Learn from the people around you, regard everything that is just plain normal to you as if it were completely new and – above all – appreciate where you are together with the people you are with. And who you are. Life is some sort of travel after all.