March 30, 2010
Japan is a pretty enjoyable country as long as you like to explore it in all that it has to offer, which is coincidentally and possibly true about any country, because countries are made up of people and places and those are our windows to new worlds of experience and enjoyment in terms that are not in our own control. Which makes them as enjoyable for me as it does to anyone who can opt to follow such an unusual path. And thats an unusual path only when its a point to explore and enjoy rather than travel and perspire.
I traveled to Japan in the summer of 2002 for the first time when I was only a year old out of my own country and given that background and opportunity I explored everything that came my way. I biked with friends and new comers to villages, to malls, to stores that are fun to visit , to restaurants and paddy fields, to wineries and parks. When I purchased a car after 2 years of my stay in Japan I expanded my sphere of exploration to all the cities outside of my home-town and all the restaurants in the vicinity. I frequented to movies and malls and restaurants almost as soon as I would get the next leisure after the strenuous amount of work. I drove, I made it a point to drive others to give them the pleasure of knowing what they did not know that existed.
While this continued in all sorts of commutation that was possible , from bicycles to buses to trains I also flew out of Japan as frequently as every 2 months or even a month. This gave me an advantage of visiting some of the best places in the country. For all that I can boast I have seen in Japan I haven’t to date seen the Mount Fuji nor have I ever taken the famed Shinkan-sen. But my list of places is enough for me to claim I am almost a native of Japan as much I am a native of US.
I have been to Niigata, to Tokyo, all places around Tsukuba city and to Kyoto and Osaka and Nara. In December 2006 I flew from Hawaii to Virginia to Tokyo to New Delhi. On my way back to Japan after a long haul in India I flew to Osaka and reserved a place in a hotel near the Osaka, Kansai airport. I stayed here for 3 to 4 days so decided to rent a car to take my chance to visit all that is nearby. Alas that was my last chance to visit anywhere in Japan as I made only one more trip to Japan for a week which I could not utilize towards any more sight seeing.
In Osaka the first thing I did was to have a beautiful dinner in the hotel with the delicious sushi, sashimi and wine they had. After taking care of my official plans I decided to go around. Since I found the stroll wasn’t enough to enjoy for the 3 days. I did enjoy not very expensive dinners, beautiful coffee places and interaction with people while reminiscing my own 6 years in the US and Japan. So I gathered the courage to rent a car from the airport just the last day before I take off back to US.
I knew that I had less time and the rentals are pretty expensive in Japan. Since I was pretty familiar with all the driving in Japan I did in the preceding years I took the hotel commute to the airport and took a toyota. Then I went on a driving spree to Osaka followed by Kyoto and Nara. These 3 cities are quite nearby and offer some of the most beautiful places in the country . Kyoto has several famous sight-seeing places and I decided to visit 2 places while dropped the idea for the 3rd one as it was quite crowded.
By this time I already was a great explorer. All the planning were instantaneous and I had no map and no companion except the fact that I knew a little practical Japanese by this time. So I visited “Sanju-Sangen-do” and “Gin Ka kuji” and returned from quiet close quarters of “Kya-miju- dera” as this one was pretty crowded and I didn’t take enough risk finding a parking place. The Sanju Sangen do is a famous and beautiful Buddhist temple in very exquisite styling. It has 100s of statues of demiGods and Gods from Hindu Mythology with their Japanese and sanskrit names inscribed on them. Taking pictures is not allowed inside this but they are so beautiful I took a few using my camcorder when no body was looking. Then I drove to Kin Ka kuji which literally means the Golden temple, as such there is also a Gin ka kuji or silver temple.
From Kyoto which is the thousand year old capital of Japan, preceding Tokyo in modern times and one of the most beautiful and organized cities, I drove straight to Nara in order to see the famed deer park. It was evening and although I found the park using my little Japanese skills with the local populace, it was already closed. So I decided on the next big thing I could have done that night. I found a nice restaurant and ordered the best spicy noodles in a bowl of hot soup.
From there I drove back to the hotel. It was a tiring trip and I slept quiet well. One thing that I will never forget is how I kept on driving back and forth between the toll gates and never made my way out of the loop into the correct highway exit. I ran out of all the Japanese change I had, a big sum, and pulled out. Since I was stuck somewhere, the cops came to my help, and tried to stop the rare trafic that was passing at that time, I think it was quite late in the night. Then I explained them I ran out of all the currency change. (Ah Nihono genki ja nai desu, arimashen )
When I woke up the next morning, it wasn’t quite comforting to know that I was not having enough flexibility with my time to take the airplane back to USA. I wasn’t even done with the packing. So I quickly put everything into my luggage, checked out of the hotel. I checked to see if someone could come with me to the airport to return my car to the rentals at the airport as I wasn’t confident enough to find the way to the airport.
I did have to go by myself. I did find the airport in time. I returned the rental car. Kansai international is a beautiful airport. You walk right up, to your destination flight, after layers of entrance. Just 5 minutes of my entry to the checking que I discovered I lost my camcorder at the car rental counter. I asked the flight crew at the check in to allow me to see if I can find my camcorder. They asked me to check in first and then allow me to go back.
This took me half an hour. The check in at Kansai was unusually longer considering there were not many when I entered and such check ins at Tokyo international which is a bigger airport took only 5-10 minutes. When I went back, I didn’t find my camcorder which was also a bit unusual to happen in Japan. But its an airport.
With that I lost all my videos of all the beautiful places I had been to. Cruising in Tokyo, beautiful blue water beaches in Hawaii, Golden temple and city avenue in Kyoto, Driving in Chicago, Lakes and memories in Michigan, biking in Tsukuba, family gatherings in India, airports, sky from the airplanes. They all were 6 hours of recording. They promised if they find my bag they would send it back to me. It never came back.
I just wished always someday somebody sends the videos back and keeps the camera for himself. Back to USA on the flight I asked my co-passenger whats the philosophical significance of loosing something by accident. Thats all that I could have done to forget something so precious. Now much into my life I understand I don’t need a cam corder or even a camera. If the world will find me worthy to capture into their memory devices they will take more beautiful pictures of me than the ones I can produce with my constant effort to catch myself.