Day 0: It’s 5pm and the sun is setting. The blue sky that I arrived to is now fading to light hues of purple and pink. I’m on the bus leaving KIX (Osaka) airport, looking out the window at ocean and highway. Eventually all I see is my own reflection. Two hours later, I get off the bus at Keihanna Plaza (Kyoto) where N is waiting for me. We pull out of the parking lot while I watch people playing tennis nearby, their breaths steaming under the court lights and winter air. I’m exhausted, excited, hungry and slightly disoriented. A rush of adrenaline courses through my body, a change from the surreal daze of my eleven hour flight. This feels…amazing. I’m in Japan!
Day 1: After a fresh night’s sleep at my new dorm in Nara, Japan, I go out to explore. It’s morning and the sunshine is warm on my face. I step out into the street (the one I vaguely remembering walking through last night), marvelling at the sounds, sights and smells around me. I realize I must look a bit strange, walking in slow motion, anything and everything catching my attention. Eventually, I arrive in Nara Park, where I wander through pagodas, temples and unexpected shrines. I pet the “wild” deer, who do tricks for biscuits. I meet a new friend L, who is a tour guide and East Asian history teacher in St. Petersburg, Russia. We spend a pleasant, slow-paced afternoon walking and talking through meandering paths in the forest around Todaiji Temple and Wakakusayama Hill. We notice the beauty and creativity and art everywhere. Flowing banners with elegant Kanji, blowing in the wind. Shops selling rice paper, signature seals, ink and brushes. Twisted vines and trees that look alive and moving as you walk by. L’s favourites are the children, rosy red cheeks, bundled up in hats and mittens, running up stairs, running down stairs, running away from deer. When its late afternoon, the air turns brisk and the wind shockingly cold. We hug and say goodbye. I return to my dorm and prepare for the week, fresh with the enchantment of Nara.