My Japan is the moments of calm in between chaos.
In a city that doesn’t stop moving, I cherish the moments in each day where I can take a breather from catching the train from one commitment to the next.
Catching the Sunrise
No matter what time I go to bed the night before, my internal body clock wakes me up between 4 and 5 A.M. for no other good reason than to catch the sunrise. When I open the sliding door to my balcony, the cool air washes over my skin and I blink a few dozen times before focusing in on the rising sun in the distance. I may be exhausted, but catching the sunrise is starting the day off on a high note.
Last Minute Cat Naps
Riding among the morning crowds of salarymen on their way to another long day at work and school kids with their noses buried in textbooks or manga, everyone is stuffed to the brim inside the Toyoko Line bound for Shibuya. Most mornings, I’m lucky enough to score a seat and when I do, I lean my head back against the window for some last minute shut-eye before the day takes off.
From the 2nd floor of the Starbucks inside Tsutaya Book Store in Shibuya Crossing, hot matcha latte in hand, I watch swarms of people power walk in all directions in the Shibuya Scramble. It is dizzying just to watch let alone zigzag through the crowds before the light changes. In between sips of my latte, I whisper to myself and to the crowds, “Kyou mo ganbare (Do your best today and every day).”
After a particularly challenging day, on the train ride home, I make a special stop at Kodosan Temple, a beautiful Christmas-colored temple that stands tall amongst the sea of grey apartment buildings. The sun is high in the sky, few people are around, and the grounds emanate tranquility. Kodosan looks both well-maintained and as if it hasn’t seen visitors in ages. No matter how busy Japan’s metropolises, one can almost always find a shrine or temple at which to stop, take a breath, and say a prayer. Often times we go searching for the highly-rated places in a new destination that we don’t even realize the treasures we can find close to home.
Escape to the Mountains
Weekends bring about a different routine. Though I’m still out the door before the sun comes up, it’s only because I want to reach the mountains before the small crowds do. Mountains offer a refuge where I can find moments of stillness, get some exercise, and absorb a different view than soaring skyscrapers and modern architecture. A few favorite hikes include Mt. Takamatsu in Atsugi City, Mt. Tsukuba in Ibaraki Prefecture, and Shosenkyo Gorge in Yamanashi Prefecture.
Disclaimer: I originally wrote this post for Odigo Travel, but it never got published so I wanted to share it here instead.