I'll start with Kanazawa (literally Castle Town), this town was closer to the center of the island and past some mountains that go by Mt. Fuji. Sadly I didn't get to see Fuji Mountain ever - damn overcast. The highlights of this town was it's small samurai and geisha quarters that looked basically like a small village from the 1500s, not too many foreigners, a cool guy at a izakaya who knew all about California and made tempura; which was invented by the Portuguese. I also remembered that when I visited Japan that it was during the post-Fukushima power plant failure and the Tohoku earthquake/tsunami. As such, it was rare to see a city, where people were not wearing masks. Also, everything worked. This was unlike Tokyo in which certain things were on reserved power to save power for the Tohoku era. I was also quite confused at where to stay and went into the wrong little hostel. I probably made that old guy super mad lol, but then I found the right one where they called me "Mike-san!" I think it was ran by a family and I got to sleep on tatami; yeah that bamboo looking floor stuff with the sliding paper doors you know. It was quite comfortable, with my robe -Bonnie, my mom's friend, would give me one to take home- and their onsen (hot spring bath) downstairs that felt so good. Anyways, it was a quick trip, but I got to see a cool small castle and the famous Kenroku-En, a glorious garden with waterfalls and unique designs. The next day, I saw a little kimono making silk place and headed out.
A nice day trip from Tokyo is Kamakura; which is known for its surfing beaches and mini-Kyoto feel. Highlights include: a free standing large Buddha not housed in a shrine or temple and a temple where a priest was taking off the daily prayers, the little white paper with Japanese writing on it, to burn. At the temple, I bumped into a Japanese couple who apologized and bowed to me for their mistake; they were so polite even though it was my fault. Another highlight, was the Zennai shrine with money washing and the triforce?! I was definitely called gaijin over there. Some other aspects, I did a quick survey for foreigners, ate some dingo, green tea ice cream, and had some sake; which hit so hard that I went home right after it. Great day trip and you can see the ocean!
Another quick trip was meeting up with Sho Morita from high school in Yokohama. It had been 5 years since I had seen him. I hung out with him and all his friends who were very nice people who had spent semesters in America in really weird places like Laredo, Texas and Boise, Idaho wtf?! It was his friend's birthday so we celebrated with chopsticks for tiramisu, plum wine (so tasty), and more as I got to meet all his Mistubishi coworkers who work in the assembly line occasionally. It was a really cool time and we went to a cheap bar after while trying to get them to play music from our iPod. I had to go home soon after but it's always good hanging with locals. It was good hanging with his pretty friend. Let me tell you, after 2 weeks of seeing nothing but Japanese women you start to find them attractive; which has been true of almost any country I've been to.
Lastly, I went on my last trip and had my last bit of milk tea - so amazing, like chocolate tea?! . This trip would be to another world heritage site, Nikko. In Japan, I had seen about 15 or so world heritage sites. The man who the site is named after, Tokugawa Ieyasu had tons of shrines for his honor built here. Tokugawa is who's most famous for uniting Japan into one country in the Edo period and instilling many traditions that Japan is known for. I had to take a northern train to get there which meant the stop was on the way to Sendai. Sendai was the city that had been hit by that 2011 Earthquake - I even felt a minor one while I was there. Nikko was strangely cool as the shrines and temples were really over the top with their ornateness and a priestess helped me find one of them -again the ever polite Japanese. You really get into a workout with all the uphill/downhill stair climbing, especially going to Tokugawa's grave. Beyond Nikko, I forgot to mention one last trip I did to Minka-En near Tokyo, which had a variety of housing designs from around Japan; including the slanted roof houses that are found in this tiny village near Kanazawa called like Sakushi-ko.
So all in all, Japan is up there for favorite country. There's not much like it in the entire world. It was a wonderful time and the longest time I've spent in another country. Thus, I really got used to the world and lifestyle there. Next travel talk is Peru, which may still be the one to trump Italy and Japan, but we'll discuss that next time.