13 January 2017
11:20AM On our way to the land of the rising sun, carrying with me 16kg of luggage and a whole ‘nother kilo of mixed feelings. Feelings of inexpressible excitement alongside fear of the unknown and the unexpected.
08:40PM When it comes to first impressions, three things come to mind as we first set foot in Narita, Japan.
1) walking. much much walking.
2) coldness. Reminds me once again how we are in a whole other country, escaping the inescapable heat of Australia. How refreshing.
3) the convenience of conbinis. and also vending machines.
09:01PM Our very first night spent in an authentic Japanese ryokan at Kirinoya Ryokan. We were welcomed by the lively and hospitable Katsumata-san who already had dinner prepared as soon as we settled in.
10:51PM By this time we had just settled ourselves for a drink at this “gaijin bar” called Barge Inn, owned by Richard Branson and named after his own company, Virgin. Although called a gaijin bar, I interestingly noticed not many “gaijins” around. Most were workers or other older Japanese males and females having a drink.
Some of us, exhausted after a long day, decided to go back to the ryokan. But after a quick stop to the conbini, one of the more pleasant culture shock that came upon me was the amount of restaurants, stores and other shops that were still open at this time of night. There wasn’t many but this little area of Narita where we stayed at certainly had more things to offer.
11:43PM There was something very humbling about sleeping on the futon over tatami mats.
14 January 2017
08:33AM Although our breakfast wasn’t until 09:00AM, most of us were excited and got ready early and were at the breakfast table by 08.30AM.
10:02AM We were now off to Narita-san Park (成田山公園) and Narita-san Shinshoji Temple (成田山新勝寺).
10:11AM After a 10-minute walk up quite a steep hill, we managed to arrive at Narita-san Park, a peaceful park that warmed my heart despite the seemingly lifeless trees. And here I was panting whilst Katsumata-san walked up the hill as if it was nothing. I was already quite impressed by how many elderly people were active despite their age.
10:30AM Thanks to Katsumata-san, we were able to have a sneak peak inside Naritasan Calligraphy Museum (成田山書道美術館, Naritayama shodō bijutsukan). Being 13.3m in height and 5.3m wide, ‘Gentaku Kitaizanmei’ was the first thing that caught much of our initial attention. As we looked around, I was also quite surprised how late calligraphies were barely readable and yet were expressive in their own way, looking more like ancient Chinese scripts/hieroglyphics. It was also impressive to see the older written design of kanji characters in calligraphy and written forms dating from the late Edo period and how far it has been modified and transformed into current kanji.
11:23AM Some time after walking through the tranquil park of Narita-san, we had finally arrived at Narita-san Shinshoji Temple.
~01:30PM After visiting our first temple here in Japan, where we had learnt the basics of Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines, we head to Aeon Shopping Centre for lunch.
~02:45PM Some of us went with Leigh to go to Sawara (佐原), a picturesque small town northeast of Narita City, hoping to be able to do the canal boat tour. Although we were unable to do the boat tour, we were able to walk around the 200 year old living streets of Sawara and enjoy a walk to the past, a quick visit to Edo.
04:27PM By the time we finished our quick-side trip to Sawara’s town centre, we had afternoon tea at a nearby restaurant also in Sawara before heading home.
08:53PM After dinner, we were entertained by the slightly tipsy Katsumata-san. Also, I am in love with these yukatas!