I spent months scrolling through blogs and travel websites as I prepared to visit Japan. As it was my first time visiting the country, there was so much I wanted to see and do. Eventually, I realized I only had a finite time there, and sometimes relying on spontaneity is better than following a strict travel plan. So I threw caution to the wind, listed a few places of interest, and allowed my sense of adventure to take over.
Not knowing where I was going, I walked along side streets and experienced what Tokyo really had to offer: the chaos of people going about their daily business at Shibuya crossing, the neon lights that lit the night sky in Shinjuku, and even a traditional Japanese wedding at the Meiji Shrine.
Carrying on with my journey, I ventured further west toward Kyoto, where people wearing kimonos decorated the streets. I remember sitting on the bus and talking to an elderly woman who mentioned a nearby temple. It wasn’t on my list, but I was instantly curious. Hardly anyone was there, and sitting on the tatami mats overlooking the garden made me truly appreciate deviating from my original travel plan. Walking through the Fushimi Inari shrine at night, I felt that I was witnessing something truly unique.
When planning my trip, I made the conscious effort to make time for a visit to Itsukushima shrine on Miyajima island. The red, wooden torii gate slowly grew as I walked toward it, its enormity overwhelming as it stood against the sea. With the tide out, I watched people walk right up to the gate, staring up in awe.
An early wakeup call took me up to the summit of Koyasan. The warm sun shone between the trees and I remember hearing the sound of wood hitting the ground — as I glanced around, I saw two pilgrims making their way from the temple, dressed in white with their wooden walking poles. In the woods, I heard only their voices and the birds singing nearby.
Even now, sitting on the other side of the world, there is something pushing me to return. Without a doubt, I know I will find my way back; I’ve only seen a small part of what Japan has to offer, and I am determined to see more.