full circle

So, it’s definitely been a minute since I updated this ol’ blog of mine! Since then I’ve landed back in Australia already, and if I’m being totally honest? The past month has been tough to say the least. For one, the sheer process of tying up exchange was way more stressful than I imagined. There are so many things to cancel, and so many procedures involved with basically erasing all traces of my existence in Japan. 





I also don't think I've ever been in the position of having to say so many goodbyes at once. Nothing really prepares you for that dreaded feeling, especially the uncertainty of whether or not you’ll see someone ever again. Of course, the people I've met and memories I’ve made on exchange are things I’ll treasure for a lifetime. I truly never thought it was possible for me to experience such a deep level of friendship, let alone in a strange place where I started out knowing exactly zero people. But at the same time, as each day passes memories of the year start to slip away. In fact, it's beginning to feel like a dream that might as well have never happened at all.



     

I remember seeing the sakura just a week out from arriving in Japan, so it was kind of fitting that I saw them again in Tokyo just before flying out back home. Of course, it’s way too early for the main event, with most Japanese cherry blossoms not emerging until at least early April. However, this early blooming variety of sakura can be spotted if you just know where to look. On this particular day in Shinjuku Gyoen (新宿御苑) a lot people had the same idea as me, and were all crowded around this particular tree that was in full bloom.



Anyway, now that I’m home again there’s good and bad news. I’ve been travelling a lot recently, so I probably have enough Japan photos to blog about for years to come! The bad news is that I kind of overdid it and wound up in hospital on my return. Without going into too much detail my chronic illness took a turn for the worse, but thankfully I’m in good hands and have been resting a lot over the past few days. I hate to end the post on such a negative note, but that’s reality and I try to be as transparent as possible when it comes to this little space of mine. Thanks so much for sticking around if you’re still reading this far, and more posts to come soon!
Posted by : Mani

kamakura day trip

After just a day in Kamakura, I totally regretted not extending my stay there. One thing I knew for sure was that I wanted to take my parents to see the famous daibutsu, or Big Buddha that resides in the area. However, I didn't expect to be blown away by the gorgeous surroundings! Kamakura may only be around two hours from Tokyo, but it's right next to the seaside and has some amazing views all around. There's nature everywhere you look, and you can definitely feel that distinct freshness of the ocean in the air.



     

We almost didn't go inside Hasedera (長谷寺), but figured that since we'd already come this far it might be worth a look. Thank goodness we did, too! This had to be one of the most interesting temples I've visited so far in Japan. It had so many things to explore, from koi ponds to a zen garden and a secret cave. I was baffled to discover that they even had free wi-fi available onsite.



     

I was immediately drawn to this striking wall of Jizo statues, but the meaning behind them is much more solemn. The figures actually represent the souls of stillborn, aborted or miscarried babies, and are placed here by their grieving families. While the statues are regularly removed to make way for new ones, it's estimated that 50,000 of them have been offered at Hasedera since World War II.





Keep climbing the seemingly endless flights of stairs, and you'll be rewarded with a stunning view at the top. It was cold and I was totally out of breath, but it was worth the exercise! I never thought I'd see such gorgeous seaside views in Japan, but was gladly proven wrong.

     



As much as I would've loved to explore all day, the sun was going down fast so we had to cut our visit short. I definitely hope I'll be able to visit Kamakura again one day though! It has so many other shrines and temples to offer that I feel like I barely even scratched the surface.
Posted by : Mani

meiji shrine

In all its concrete and steel grandeur, it's hard to believe there's a single pocket of green to be found in the heart of Tokyo. Yet, you don't have to look any further than Meiji Shrine (明治神宮) for a slice of nature right next to the bustling streets of Harajuku. No matter how many times I visit, there's something so calming about that long stroll to the shrine's main entrance. If you ask me, taking in the lush green canopy and sounds of rustling leaves really is an experience comparable to no other.





You can't visit Meiji Shrine without stopping to admire the ever famous wall of sake barrels there. The sake itself is actually donated by breweries all over Japan, and has the purpose of being used in ceremonies and festivals. While the barrels may be empty, you can't deny that they're pretty darn photogenic! I always take a snap when I happen to be passing by.





When we visited, preparations were already underway for the inevitable crush of people that would arrive on New Year's Eve. In Japanese culture, most people will forgo partying to ring in the new year at their local shrine. Meiji Shrine in particular will often attract over three million visitors during this time, packing its grounds to the brim!





No matter what time of year you visit, there's no doubt there'll be a steady stream of visitors at Meiji Shrine. Surprisingly there was quite a lot of greenery when I visited, despite it being the dead of winter.







It's hard to believe that just a few minutes away you'll find Takeshita Dori, the epitome of Japanese teenage culture. As one of the country's busiest shopping strips I find it a tad overwhelming, if I'm being completely honest! It's a huge contrast from the more traditional side of things, but I guess that summarises Japanese culture in a nutshell. Until next time!
Posted by : Mani