Category Archives: Asia

Meeting together: Kagoshima and Yoron

Meeting together: Kagoshima and Yoron
Meeting together: Kagoshima and Yoron

“Did you make it back home?” a friend from the Christian retreat asked me.

“Well…”

My secondary school had asked me to teach the week immediately following the holidays — so instead of taking a 15 hour ferry home, I sailed for 20 hours to Yoron Island. Thankfully, my itinerary allowed for one night’s stopover in Kagoshima City, where the international Calvary Church welcomed me warmly as ever.

Read the rest of this entry

Magic kingdom: Tokyo DisneySea

Magic kingdom: Tokyo DisneySea

After ten days of wrestling with ticket vendors — online, over the phone, via app, at the train station, in merchandise stores, even at the convenience stores where Japan typically buys its event tickets — I gambled a last-ditch effort on asking at the park gate.

Though every other employee swore they would deny me same-day entrance (COVID regulations, naturally), when I presented my sob story in person, sanity prevailed. The beneficent attendants conducted me at once to a backstage office, where a smiling lady issued my ticket to the world of Disney.

Read the rest of this entry

Dancing art: Kabuki and Shibuya

Dancing art: Kabuki and Shibuya

It dawned on me that Kabukiza Theatre was a big deal when I spotted the metro riders decked out in kimonos.

To bookend my ballet excursion with something more local in flavor, I had secured my seat for a matinee performance without knowing what to expect. It turns out that kabuki drama operates as a full-day experience: you can attend three separate performances in a single day, from courtlier eras when the leisurely had no reason to rush.

I settled for just one performance, in two acts: the escape of Yukihime (“Princess Snow”) from a rebellious overlord, followed by a coquettish spring dance themed around irises.

Read the rest of this entry

Wisteria mountain: Kawaguchiko and Mt. Fuji

Wisteria mountain: Kawaguchiko and Mt. Fuji

I was overdue for transportation travails this trip, and today delivered in spades.

My worries over catching the express to Mt. Fuji proved groundless — it was the local bus lines that foiled me. Golden Week traffic had stretched the two hour express to four, then I took the wrong bus, missed the right one, and finally staggered to my intended destination six hours after departing from Tokyo Station.

Happily, mineral baths overlooking the mountain promised the restoration I sorely needed.

Read the rest of this entry

Little ashes: Shinjuku and Skytree

Little ashes: Shinjuku and Skytree

Today I crossed west, to the metropolitan mammoth of Shinjuku. By a quirk of public transportation, distance as-the-crow-flies tells you little about what parts of the city are “nearby” in terms of travel time. It cost me less trouble to leapfrog across the city center, then back again north for a visit to Tokyo’s most extravagant shopping mall, than riding directly south to Odaiba yesterday.

I thanked the city planners, because my engagement this morning demanded timeliness: a performance of Cinderella by Japan’s national ballet.

Read the rest of this entry

Glorious place: Tsukiji and Odaiba

Glorious place: Tsukiji and Odaiba

My hotel greeted me bright and early with a typical Japanese breakfast: that is to say, what we would consider a large lunch. Then I ploughed into the business of traveling: opening hours, ticket prices, and endless mapping and remapping metro routes.

Satisfied that my week in Japan was taking tentative shape, I dedicated my first afternoon to visiting the two items at the top of my bucket list: Tokyo’s sushi central and waterfront Odaiba.

Read the rest of this entry

Starry field: Christian retreat in Nagano

Starry field: Christian retreat in Nagano

Welcome to “Golden Week”: a succession of national holidays that free most of Japan to travel en masse. You must book your tickets months in advance or forget about traveling on a budget. I decided to spend my allotment on Tokyo, aiming to rectify the fourteen days I passed here in mandatory isolation, forbidden from leaving the hotel property let alone poke my nose into a sushi restaurant.

The trip began with an unexpected detour: JET’s Christian society threw open the doors for me to join their weekend retreat in Nagano — with only 24 hours notice. I hastily abbreviated my hotel stay in Tokyo and bought my shinkansen (bullet train) tickets at Tokyo Station for a 2+ hour trek northwest to join them.

Read the rest of this entry

Mountain gods: Christmas in Kyoto

Mountain gods: Christmas in Kyoto

My first Christmas in Japan marked my first serious bout with homesickness. Holidays away from home hadn’t tormented me in South Africa or the UK — but this was my first time overseas with no one to visit. There is a big difference, I discovered, between being away from your family, and being without any family at all.

At loose ends for the end of the year, I maximized my vacation time with a trip to Kyoto, the destination most recommended to me by my Japanese co-workers and students.

Before I boarded the plane, I tackled my first full month at work, with all the typical frenzy and festivities.

Read the rest of this entry

Happy Island: arriving in Japan

Happy Island: arriving in Japan

The time difference between Washington, D.C. and Japan is twice as long as with South Africa – but the flight here took half the time! The advantages of crossing the pole rather than the equator, I surmise.

My employment with JET (Japan Exchange and Teaching Program) commenced at the end of October 2021, when my plane touched down in Tokyo. Too much is happening for me to neglect my adventures here while chronicling my intercontinental tour, so I’ll alternate updates.

After some harrowing airport travails earlier this summer, I entrusted myself with relief to the capable Japanese bureaucracy.

Read the rest of this entry