All that happened in Hokkaido

It’s been a month since I started traveling seriously but few words have been posted here. How can I compensate for the time lost? I guess I can only capture the now by attempting to recap the past.

My last JET journey in Japan was in Hokkaido. It was a dream of mine, because Hokkaido is renowned for its refreshing and beautiful summers. Through my journey I learned a bit of background about the northern land. Due to its vast landscape, Hokkaido became attractive because the Japanese government could develop the area for various crop farming: rice, corn, even lavender (hence the renowned Furano farm Tomita). According to A Wild Sheep Chase, one of my favorite reads, Japan used to use the land for large scale sheep breeding as well. Of course all these nice new development came at the expense of the Ainu people, who have long lived through the land by hunting and gathering. Since they didn’t believe in ownership of the earth, the division of land when rice farming Wajin entered the picture was certainly not so pretty… Politics aside, Ainu culture boasts some of the most impressive design, wood carving, and traditional culture that I have ever seen. Their ability to live in harmony with nature even I. Hokkaido’s harsh winters is truly a incredible feat.

History is interesting but for my own journey the best parts were serendipitous meetings of kind folks.

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In two days, I’ll be taking a week long trip to Hokkaido. It’s a dream coming true, which somehow makes me very nervous. I’ll be writing here to document my thoughts. As for this weekend, I went to Kyoto for perhaps the last time this time round in Japan. I’ve always loved Kyoto: it’s aura of culture, art, tradition, and beauty is unparalleled. Though I love Nara, Kyoto has a vibe of lively-ness that I always associate with.

Summer night hanabi

Youth: Hanabi on the Kamo river banks, summer night

By the Kamo river, I hung out with some good folks as part of the Cross-Cultural Kansai Group. It was a fun picnic amongst a great group of people, complete with homemade cheesecake. For the first time in a while, I felt transported to those carefree days of college, those defining days of youth.

We saw some young college kids set off fireworks, smoke filling up the night air. Youth. We all want to live it, breath it, but are we in it? Maybe that’s why I love traveling– it’s the quintessential marker of a youthful spirit. The heart that’s restless until the next adventure, the heart that seeks those moments of ephemeral fireworks.

From now, travel

Experience has taught me that I’m horrible at keeping up with blogs. Perhaps it would’ve been wise to have given up long ago, but part of me thinks that something will change every time I start a new born site. So without further ado, what’s going on here?

Travel. What’s not to love? Maybe… quite a bit. The stress of passing security at airports and dashing for trains, the heightened sense of danger when the smells of a new land hit one’s face… a lot of meh can happen even before one lands foot in a new place. There are a lot of unknowns that humans are not well programmed to respond to. Yet, many, myself included, cannot picture a life without travel. Why is this the case? I guess that’s what I’m trying to figure out with this blog.

In Japanese, the word “旅 (tabi) ” translates roughly to “Journey”. A couple of Japanese friends tried but had a hard time explaining the meaning of the word. How does it differ from the English equivalents, or even the Japanese word 旅行 (ryoko)? 旅 doesn’t quite mean to search for something… or sightseeing. To my best understanding, it carries a tone of “travel while knowing the self”. Now maybe that’s taking the whole idea of travel way too seriously.

Still, 旅 seems a fitting description for the types of experiences I’m seeking. Having traveled extensively over my own volition in the past 2 years, I’ve come to appreciate life on the road. Yet no matter where I went, there’s always a sense of familiarity accompanied with the obvious strangeness of every new place. I felt that try as I might, I was never able to fully attain that state of 旅.

Thus, I’m hoping to use this blog to document these fleeting experiences, and to find the true meaning of 旅 through the days on the road.