I had such an amazing time in Japan, and it was sad to think that I was already going to start my journey home. The journey from Kyoto all the way back to the U.S would be an adventure in and of itself.
I would be taking a bullet train into Tokyo, then getting a train to Narita, spending the night there, leaving for Beijing in the morning, spending a night there and then flying home the next morning. To say the trip was almost over was a bit misleading because I still had a ton of ground to cover. My backpack was also a bit heavier on the return journey, because I stocked up on teas that I had scoured the country to find.
On the way home, I was lucky enough to see a great view of Mt. Fuji! This was a rare sight even for people that live in Japan. The mountain is so high it is often covered in clouds and you rarely get a glimpse of the famous white peak. The salaryman sitting next to me instantly noticed that this was my first time seeing the mountain and he immediately stood up so I could get out and get a closer look. Just then, the man sitting across the aisle also got up and pushed me into his seat so I could get a few precious pictures of this iconic mountain peak. Only in Japan would this happen.
Another thing you would only find in Japan is this little number here. I had to get a picture of it and it is one of the many little things I will miss about this place. Apparently it is very important that people know exactly how to use a toilet!
Although I had flown into Narita twice in my life, I had never actually spent time in the town itself. I didn’t really know what to expect, but I thought it would be an “airport town” if there is such a thing. As it turns out, while international tourists account for a good portion of the towns visitors, it still has it’s own culture and attractions to experience. It is also one of the least walkable places I had ever been to.
I was staying just a short walk from the train station, so I quickly figured out how to get to my Airbnb. This place was huge! It was almost as if I had my own apartment. In Kyoto and Tokyo, I was used to having just a bed and then a tiny bit of extra floor space to put my stuff but this room was actually like a normal sized hotel room. They had the sliding paper and wood doors that you see in movies. A few holes had been poked through accidentally and were now patched with different types of duct tape.
This was one of the strangest places I stayed at. It wasn’t that anything was wrong with the room, it was the fact that I didn’t encounter another person the entire time. I had no way of even confirming that I walked into the right building. I went in, picked up a key from the table, slept in the room and then returned the key and left in the morning. Maybe this is normal for some people, but for whatever reason I like having at least one person to talk to when I stay at a place. It felt like a ghost town!
I wanted to do one last mini-adventure before my flight so I set a course for the local Don Quijote. For those of you who don’t know, this is the most well-known chain of superstores throughout Japan. They are basically designed to sell just about anything you might need, and sometimes they can have multiple floors. In Narita, there are very few sidewalks (at least on the route I was on) so I kept needing to change sides of the road so the cars could see me better. This was pretty frightening for me, particularly at night. I kept waiting for lulls in the traffic so I could walk around corners and sometimes I would have to stand in place for a few minutes until I was presented with a window.
About halfway between my Airbnb and the Don Quijote was a really cool Pagoda and temple complex. Just as I thought my temple days were behind me, this one presents itself! The best part is, they had a bathroom here!
This was actually one of the cooler temples I had seen on my trip. Just because there are less people that come here, doesn’t make it any less beautiful. In fact, often the reverse is true!
I stopped to admire the temple for a little while and then continued on my way. The sun was setting and I still had about 20 more minutes of walking to do. A little ways down the path, I found myself at a fork in the road. My GPS said either way was equivalent distance so I decided to take a small little bamboo path. I walked into this path when the sun was still setting and by the time I had gotten out it was almost completely dark. Walking through a bamboo forest is a lot less fun at night.
I then found myself walking through farmland. Tiny little houses were spread amongst vegetable fields, disconnected from the rest of the town. I saw three school children walking home in front of me. I know they didn’t speak any English, but it was comforting to see them because I probably wasn’t completely in the middle of nowhere.
Eventually I emerged from this farmland into the busy shopping district of Narita. There were a few department stores spread out here, but there was one I was looking for. I’ll be honest, this Don Quijote was a little bit of a disappointment. The one I went to in Shibuya was massive, colorful and fun. This one was definitely colorful, but not really that big or that fun. The products here were all made very cheaply, and I didn’t want any of them. Originally I planned on getting a few souvenirs here, but now I didn’t feel like it. The one cool thing I saw was this “flash freezing machine” by the checkout counters. If you are buying things that you would prefer to be ice cold, you can just stick those grocery items into the flash freezer and pull the lever. I’m not sure how this works but I guess they just come out ice cold!
I didn’t really know this technology existed. It’s pretty much a microwave but for cold! I grabbed myself a few groceries from a nearby store for my dinner and breakfast. I had no more yen, so I was somewhat limited to where I could shop. Not every place accepts cards and I figured I would rather figure out my breakfast tonight rather than waiting until tomorrow.
That night I walked home, a little bit deflated from a disappointing Don Quijote run, but excited for the opportunity to keep exploring. I basically had the whole hotel to myself when I got home because I didn’t hear another person the entire time. I kept asking myself “am I in some random person’s house?” I guess that’s a question I will never truly know the answer to.