It was about a month after my sister died, and I wasn’t getting anything done at work. For some reason, a shock like that seems to stall your brain and you have to give directions for things you never did before. Procedures that I had done a dozen times I would pause between each step and have to remind myself of what to do next.
My boss kept telling me to take time off if I needed it. I couldn’t go home though. The only thing worse than being in excruciating grief is to watch everyone you love go through the same thing. I happened to have a friend in town who was about to leave for Japan and he said I should come with.
At first, I thought it was crazy, then I thought, it would be crazy not to go. I could take a week off. I wasn’t doing anyone any good in Portland. And travel, for me, always reminds of how beautiful the world is, and at the moment, it seemed anything but beautiful.
So I cashed in some airline miles.
And I went.
What I found when I landed in Japan was something totally different than what I had experienced in China. Even in the middle of Tokyo, you can find peace in Japan.
I was in Japan in the fall, and I hit the fall colors in all their brilliance totally by accident. The country was vibrant and serene at the same time.
There is the strong Buddhist background mixed with so much emphasis on technology and being extremely modern. It creates surprising approaches to life at unexpected moments.
There was none of the harried, pushy energy I had experienced in China. I couldn’t imagine people pushing in the subway in Japan. They were so peaceful. They were so well dressed. They were so polite.
I did not see a single person in sweats, the entire trip.
I even got dressed up as geisha for the day in Kyoto.
We traveled all over Japan by train and never once had a train be late. The system is so reliable you really could almost set your watch by it. We even went to a Buddhist Monastery in the mountains and took a funicular to the top of the mountain where the monks live. That was also on time. But if I’m honest, morning prayers with the monks was really the highlight for me.
My 10 days of travel in Japan are some of my best days of travel ever. This country was beautiful but it was more than that, it was culturally unlike anything else I’ve seen.
I think the way to see Japan is to wait until you’ve gone a few other places first, because it’s not until you’ve experienced the chaos of most countries, that you can appreciate the peacefulness of Japan.