At the turn of the millennium, I left behind family and friends for the first time in my life and headed East to Japan. To say that it was a big decision is a monumental understatement: it was wholly transformative. The other day it hit me that this year is the 20th “anniversary” of the trip that reshaped who I am and altered my entire world view.
It wasn’t easy by any stretch. I had amazing experiences discovering another culture that I was familiar with, but not to a deep degree. I met a wonderful woman but subsequently lost out in that relationship when I was unable to stay in the country. Work was both rewarding and soul-sucking in equal degrees, but I suppose that can be true of any situation. I’ve spent far longer in Hong Kong but while it too has provided me with opportunities and good friends, the place hasn’t crept into my being like Japan did. As others I’ve known who have lived in a place other than where they were born and then found that they were living in the wrong place, much of Japan felt “right” in a way that Hong Kong hasn’t. Sadly, despite Japan’s very real need for increased immigration to counter their growing “silver tsunami”, Hong Kong remains considerably more open to possibilities for non-Hong Kongers than Japan does for non-Japanese.
However, this post is not meant to be a platform to bemoan my lot in life. I still ensure that I go back and visit a couple of times a year and spend time with friends that I’ve had for 20 years and get a cultural reset while I’m there. The images included are a mere drop in the bucket of the thousands of shots I’ve taken in two decades.
Fukuoka at the north end of Kyushu is famous for its yatai – basically the original food trucks.
Hop the local train from Kyoto station, go a few stops to Fushimi-Inari and you’ll end up at the famous Shinto shrine of the same name.
The Genbaku Dome was the building directly underneath the atomic bomb that was detonated over Hiroshima in WW2. Take a 5 minute walk to the museum. It should be a mandatory visit for all world leaders.
Himeji castle is nicknamed “the white crane”. It is one of the finest examples of an original castle left in Japan.
In most buddhist temples, for 300 yen you can get a “goshuuin” to record that you’ve been to that particular temple.
Hounen-in is one of my favourite little temples in Kyoto. It can be found just off the “Philosopher’s Path”.
The great seated Daibutsu of Kamakura.
Futuristic but with a nod to the old style torii: Kanazawa station.
Kinkaku-ji: the golden pavilion of Kyoto.
Overlooking Kyoto is the “pure water” temple, Kiyomizu-dera.
Kimonos and rikisha in Kyoto.
More kimonos in Kyoto.
The great torii at Miejima, Hiroshima.
Sandals in Onomichi.
Osaka isn’t all modern buildings. There are still some gems to be found in the local neighbourhoods.
Gomaki ceremony at Senkou-ji, near Kobe.
A bit of levity at the mountain top temple complex of Mt. Shousha.
Night time view of the Sky Tree in Tokyo.
Spring time rice planting festival has its roots in the Heian era: Sumiyoshi shrine, Osaka.
More from Sumiyoshi festival in Osaka.
The bad boy of sumo, Asashouryu about to win another bout.
Picture time at Sensou-ji in Tokyo
Symmetry at Toufuku-ji in Kyoto. One of 4 gardens at the temple.
Tsutenkaku tower in Shin-Sekai, Osaka.
Out in the Kansai countriside of Ono.