Three Years On The Road

Today marked a special anniversary. It’s been three years since I’ve left the safe confines of my life and boarded a plane for the unknown shores of the UK. Back then I didn’t know what I know now about life in a foreign land with different sets of laws and ideals. All I had with me was a heavy suitcase and a hope and dream that it would be alright. Today I am in a different city in a different land living out a dream that was part of a hope that predated my departure from Vancouver. There are only a precious few days left to roam these city streets before a plane takes me back with just a pack strapped to my back.

Somehow this day is supposed to be different not in the everyday is a different day kind of way but different in that some days are more special than others kind of way. One way or the other I had to have a bit of a celebration a toast to this accomplishment. I set off after writing and having some breakfast late in the morning. I keep forgetting to charge up my batteries overnight and this mild paranoia that I’ll run out of juice remains from my day in Taj Mahal. 

I have picked out my intended route keeping in line with simplicity of goals to make them achievable in the time budgeted for the day. There are some green spaces in the city that I wanted to check out. 

I walked to Akasaka Palace and along the way saw this interesting temple complex that I thought was a part of the complex. Myogongi Temple is a strange little temple complex. It was filled with a variety of dog statues. I haven’t seen a temple that venerated dogs yet. It was well maintained and dense with little shrines. 

Akasaka Palace is still in use and the path that I chose to try to enter it gave me the impression that visitors were not welcome. The grounds are quite extensive however and are hidden behind a great wall. Security guards stand at the entrances and there is a guard cycling in circles patrolling the sidewalk. No matter the main goal for me was to check out Meiji Jingu. 

Meiji Jingu is a Shinto shrine dedicated to emperor Meiji and his wife Shoken. The grounds are extensive with trees planted by people who venerated their lives. The trees were donated from all over Japan and their lush cover created a peaceful experience as I walked through them. I wasn’t alone in enjoying this oasis in the middle of the city. 

Shinto is a purely Japanese religion. It has no set of dieties or any written scripture. It does pay homage to the beauty and wonder of life. Reverence is bestowed upon the natural splendor that is sometimes found in the environment and certain people. Emperor Meiji I believe was responsible for moving the capital to Tokyo and oversaw a great change in Japan with the increase in industrialization and modernization of the country. It is easy to see why this reverence was bestowed upon him after he and his wife passed away. 

The shrine itself had a good feel to it. There was a simple courtyard with places for individual prayers mostly for peace and health as well as the simple shrine that still imposed with its scale and magnificence. It drew many to its grounds and it was in keeping with the Japanese way of cleanliness and simplicity. I felt at peace after leaving here. I walked to another part of the grounds to check out the gardens that at one point were enjoyed by the Emperor. 

There were flowers in bloom and a nice pond filled with fish. What I saw and how I felt were in synch with each other. The beauty of nature and the feelings of reflection were intertwined. The path a route mapped out long ago taking me through a voyage externally and internally. The internal one through time and space reflecting upon the days and years spent abroad and the coming months that will be spent in a place at once familiar yer seen through totally new eyes. The flowers were beautiful all coming into bloom their colors varied from white to purple and blue. All those I knew and wanted to know more. As older men sat there painting the scene before them and others took pictures with incredibly big lenses as a gardener tended to this flock of flowers with tenderness and care. 

The path went along towards a spring renowned for the purity of water gushing water out of it. There was a guard standing by to make sure the crowd wanting to see it doesn’t get out of hand. There was indeed a little spring from which water gently rose in which you could see your reflection if you looked at it in just the right way. How many people have stood in these stones and looked for their reflection wondering how this water tastes? With the gathering line of older folks eager to see it for themselves the time was limited. I walked away slowly consumed in some thought of one thing or another when she walked by and I remarked that her bag was open as the precarious jumble of things might fall out. 

We walked along asking the basic questions one might have having met someone new. Where are you from? What are you doing here? How long have you been traveling? How do you like it here? Questions whose answers lead to another question and a conversation develops and those antennae feel the responses to see what may become of it. Our paths just crossed and our trajectory lead in other directions in the immediate future. I was going to where she has just been and she was going to where I just was. We made plans to meet up later on tonight. 

I kept walking on through the forest towards a vague direction that would take me to the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building. This is a provincial as well as metropolitan office building. One of the tallest in the city. The grounds are stark and imposing. There is a vast underground series of tunnels that bypass the usual walk above ground. Eventually though I wanted to see the other buildings that surround it. There are prominent signs of the preparation that the city is taking for the upcoming Olympics in 2020. I didn’t even know although I probably saw the headline a while ago. 

It is possible to go up to an observation deck located high up in each of the two towers springing up from the main building. The tourism lady suggested that I take the southern tower as it provides the better view. I went up the elevator and was glad that this was a free ride. It’s nice of them to provide this experience to visitors. The view was pretty good too. I walked around the tower taking snaps of the city from behind the window. 

Soon it became clear that I should get ready for tonight. I went back to the hotel happy that I bought the travel card and loaded it with enough funds to make it to many places today. I’m becoming accustomed to using this metro system here. When I calculate the cost it is quite expensive but at the same time it allows you to move about the city fairly fast. It was rush hour and on one of the trains I was cought up in the crush of people leaving to go wherever they go. 

I was still cought up in the crush as I went on to meet Lauren and her friend Victoria who she met at the hostel she is staying at. We met in Roppongi a popular area for expats to drop some cash. I went through here the other day on my way to Tokyo Tower. I told them of all the promoters enticing me to enter their joint. She said it would be different with two women in tow and it was. There were no solicitations this time as we walked along searching for a place to sit down and have dinner. We walked around and eventually settled in a place to have some sushi. We continued talking about our lives and experiences. Victoria has spent the last four or five months traveling New Zealand and Australia. Lauren meanwhile spent a semester in Machester and hails from Sydney. 

They made me forget that it was three years on the road for me and we felt bloated after eating all the sushi and beer. We walked to a spot we saw earlier for another beer in order to continue our conversation and get to know each other more. We were in a brew pub famous in the UK. There was a magician that came to our table and performed some tricks for us. He was from Nova Scotia of all places and I kept guessing what he was going to do. It wa good slight of hand nonetheless. With our very expensive but tasty beers empty it was late and they needed to go so we parted ways and went to our respective hotels. It was a good day reflective yet positive in what’s to come. 

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