The pristine whiteness outlined the contours of the barn and the familiar landscape of my sleeping blueberries as I tramped through the dark night. I was on my way to the barn to get a wrench. It was late Tuesday and Jim and I were draining the pipes in my house. I looked back at my footprints marring the smooth surface of the snow and wondered what footprints I would be making on this trip. Leaving the security of the nest is always a little daunting but the adventure keeps drawing me back. 4:30 am Wednesday morning came fast. I woke to a raging wind storm and no power in the place. Quickly gathering my stuff, I hoped I wasn’t leaving anything behind in my cold, dark house as we set off. Jim was driving me to the airport. There was uncertainty about Jim’s plans until the 11th hour. His work requested that he cut his leave short and fleshing out the different options was no easy task. In the end, I am travelling solo.
The days before leaving were a whirlwind of work and last minute details. I was still on the phone with Service Ontario trying to sort out a health card issue of Max’s while waiting to board the plane, until the line dwindled to only – me. Once we landed in Washington, I walked off one plane and onto the next without even sitting down. And for the next 12 1/2 hours I lounged and read as I was served food and beverages. It was glorious. But overtired and over-stimulated, I couldnt sleep.
Before even getting my bearings in the Tokyo airport, I was approached by a Japanese TV anchorman, complete with cameraman and interpreter who asked if they could interview me. From what I understood, my solo status, gender, age and backpack intrigued them. Bizarre. They said I was going to be on the news. It must have been a slow day in Tokyo to make me newsworthy. When they were done, I asked if I could take thier picture. They happily obliged and told me that Japanese people would recognize them. They kept filming me as I walked off to find an ATM. It made me laugh.
My first lesson in Japan is that not all ATMs are not created equal. A word to the wise – choose the 7/11 ATM with the long line. I foolishly chose the one with no line and drastically overpaid the commission and exchange. (It cost me $650.00 for 30,000 yen when it should have cost me $500.00 ).
It was a two-hour bus ride from the airport into Tokyo to the Shinjuku bus station. En route, the night skyline of Tokyo literally left me breathless it was so beautiful. Shinjuku looks like the granddaddy of Times Square. The 9-hour overnight bus to from Tokyo to Osaka left at midnight and, head swimming and beary-eyed, I was on it. I have finally checked into a hostel after wandering the streets and subways of Osaka. For 1100 yen (about $30.00), my room is an unheated closet just big enough for a single mattress on the floor with no room on either side, and I’m happy for it. By the Gods, I’m going to sleep tonight.
The Japanese are efficient and organized, clean, polite and considerate. Many people wear white face masks and there is a lot of green tea and bowing. Everything is expensive and the weather is cold. And the grocery store sushi is to die for. Tomorrow I will take the bus to Kyoto and do some hiking.
All is well.