While I live a life many seem to envy here in the Caribbean, waking up to white sand beaches with turquoise water, and getting a suntan on the boat between scuba dives, only a few close friends know that my heart really lies in Japan.
|wearing my hello kitty yukata at a ryokan (tradional inn)
An obsession since I was tiny, Japan embodies everything I love: efficiency, innovation, perfection, order, traditions and precision. A wide geographic range from snowy mountains in the north all the way down to tropical beaches in the south has always amazed me for such a small country. When I started taking Japanese language classes I admired the simplicity of the language structure (screw you, French and Spanish). Japan is also home to my favorite cuisine by far, and I have sushi tattoos to prove it!
|kaiseki breakfast (fancy traditional meal)
When I finally visited Japan in 2009 after finding a miraculous $400 return ticket from Vancouver (!!!), I was worried that I had built it up so much in my mind that I would be disappointed when I got there and finally experienced it for myself. Luckily, it was better than I could have ever imagined. I fell in love with nearly everywhere in Japan, but my favorite city in Japan (and the world) is Kyoto.
Three things that I love about Kyoto:
1) Running into a geisha in a giant bamboo forest.
While wandering the streets in the Arashiyama district of Kyoto, we stumbled upon a bamboo forest. Walking inside the forest through the path gave me an instant sense of calm and serenity (which was much needed, as I had just gotten lost for 2 hours trying to find my hostel). I turned around to take a photo, and realized that the photo I was taking was my exact desktop wallpaper at home – talk about deja vu! – and around the corner came a geisha walking with a companion. I couldn’t believe it! She was so gracious, and let us take a picture with her. Still, 6 years later, this is one of my favorite travel memories.
2) Visiting one of the oldest Zen temples in Kyoto.
Kennin-ji was founded in 1202 and is still kickin’ it. This temple was so beautiful and we were lucky enough to catch a traditional wedding procession moving through it with the bride, groom and wedding party in full regalia. We explored the meticulously kept grounds and ended off the visit by writing our wishes and prayers on a little piece of wood and hanging it on a wall with thousands of others. Mine was to return to Japan someday – hopefully that’s still in the works!
3) Eating the best ramen in the world.
I don’t know if it was the steaming bowl of dark soy broth, fatty cha-su pork, springy negi (green onion) and chewy noodles, or the company, or the view, that made this the best bowl of ramen I’ve ever eaten… but I don’t care! Hiding out from the rain in a ramen-ya with my Japanese university roommate and her friend who came up to Kyoto to meet me and my travel buddies was one of my favorite times in Kyoto. I think I’ve eaten about 856 bowls of ramen since then, but this one is still #1.
This post has sent me into another Japan-frenzy and I’m putting email alerts on all the airlines! It’s also a contest entry for Accor Hotels that sounds pretty awesome – a chance to win a nine-night European trip to London, Paris & Amsterdam, plus £1,000 (about $1,200) in spending money and a GoPro camera to capture everything. I’ve never been to Europe so this would be a great place to start! If you want to enter, create a blog post or video around the theme ‘Three things I love about my favourite city’ and notify Accor by sending a link to the entry either via a tweet to the @Accorhotels Twitter account including the hashtag #3cities or via email . Full contest details can be found here.