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Sunday, June 15, 2008

Japan Trip Day 9: Ja mata 日本旅行6月8日

Sennnichimae 千日前 is empty early on a Sunday morning; and NT dollars can finally be exchanged for yen (and vice versa) at Kansai International Airport 関西国際空港.

My last day in Japan was a short one. I was on the Nankai Line 南海線 out of Namba Station 難波駅 by 7:40am, on the plane just after 11, in Taiwan around 1:15pm, and back "home" before 4. It was an tiring trip at times, but a refreshing form of exhaustion nonetheless. I was able to climb up to the Nageire-dō 投入堂 and to the top of Mount Daisen 大山; visit one of the most important Shintō 神道 shrines in Japan, Izumo Taisha 出雲大社; spend several days in one of the country's more laid-back, relaxing cities, Matsue 松江; discover a hidden gem of a town in the form of Takahashi 高梁; and meet up with some wonderful people again. I've been back to Japan a number of times now since relocating to Taiwan, and I've thoroughly enjoyed each and every visit. The only drawback is I have to come back here. I would never be so presumptuous as to claim that I "understand" Japan, but I do "get" a lot of things there - how they are done, why they are done that way etc. Even after several years in Taiwan, I'm still lost as to why people do things the way they do so here. Just looking around my apartment, for example, I find myself shaking my head at so many little things (Why no southern exposure? Why are the balconies so small? Why is the entrance in a dark stairwell, and not on the outside? Why the necessity for barred windows five stories above the ground? The list goes on.), and it gets worse the further you progress outside. Why is everyone so terrified of the sun, and of dogs, and of ghosts, and of yada yada yada? Enough. Two things always come into focus whenever I travel to Japan from Taiwan. Or, more accurately, two mistakes. We all screw up on numerous occasions during the course of our lives. In my case, the two biggest regrets are leaving Japan in the first place to move to Taiwan; and then getting myself tied down to a long-term commitment here when in retrospect it might've been better to have moved on (or back).

But then again, my daughter wouldn't be here if these things hadn't come to pass, so the optimist inside (he's in there somewhere) reassures me that it's all for the best in the long term. I sure hope so. In the meantime, I'll be planning my next visit.

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