This was my third visit to Japan, and it was unquestioningly the best, partly because I am a more experienced traveler now. I am more accepting of my circumstances. I now appreciate the process of adapting to the way things are wherever I find myself. When I wasn't teaching I had adventures . . . adventures in cuisine, learning the way of the samurai, temple hikes, tea ceremonies, and three nights on tatami mats in a ryokan. I saw geishas pop out of their incredibly mysterious quarters and became obsessed with tamago (omelet sushi). I failed to wrap my head around the enormity of Japanese nightlife but I did succeed at teaching full classes without relying on language. When it comes to being observant and thinking about everything from object placement, organizational systems, and courtesy, no one beats the Japanese. (Bless the heated toilet seats, lights shows and multitude of electrical outlets.)
I spent time in Osaka (the land of ultimately convenient food and shopping), Kyoto (Japan's historical and cultural center), and big city Tokyo.
I saw my first bamboo forest and learned that bamboo has defended itself against human animals with a climbing proclivity. They are quite slippery. I saw the abruptness and snow cover of Mt. Fuji and trees in colors I didn't know existed like strawberry blonde pines and cartoon lobster-hued maple. I will continue my morning matcha ritual and make good use of my new neck warmer.
I left with an immediate longing to spend more time and grow a deeper understanding of the eternally intriguing Japanese culture. Thank you Japan for being so welcoming.