Friday July 25th 2004
My long anticipated journey has finally arrived. On this overcast muggy summer day I take my first steps on an adventure that will not only carry me across the Japanese archipelago but to countries far beyond the Pacific. From Japan I head to the island nation of Indonesia before carrying onto the lushness that is Thailand. After a week in Thailand I will head to the Himalayan Kingdom of Nepal and then cross into the subcontinent and the cultural richness that is India. My journey will be complete when I arrive in England in February and then back to Boston a few weeks later. But that is for another time in the future. Getting back into the present, I’m sitting on a train bound for Nagoya, Japan. As with every expedition I’ve gotten myself involved with I’m feeling a little nervous about the unknown. It’s this same emotion that drives me to continue to search for whatever it is I’m looking for. From NagoyaI will grab a bus, then at Matsumoto grab a local train that will wind its way down a beautiful lush green gorge for 3 hours before stopping at the Itaigawa Station.
A short train ride from Itaigawa finds me on the Japan Sea coast in Niigata-Ken. Finally my final destination of the day arrives at Oyashirage and a short walk from the station under a light drizzle dumps me Piapark Beach. My sense have revived, and I find a perfect camp site for the evening! Three small open air patios that look onto the beach. These patios are restaurants that serve raman noodle and other typical japanese lunches during the day. All but one is closed. I set my 70 pound pack down under the veranda and look out towards the sea around me. An amazing feeling has undertaken me. From this point on there is no looking back, no turning back. Tomorrow I will be in the wilderness and mountains that make up the Northern (Kita) Japanese Alps, my pilgrimage through this country so reaped in mysteriousness that even the Japanese themselves don’t quite know what it means to be “Japanese”. The main reason for me to embark on this pilgrimage through the Kita Alps, the small villages, the Minamin (southern) Alps, and wherever else I may be is to experience Japan as a complete stranger or outsider would. The last 3 years of working in the Japanese education system has given me an unbelievable experience. Not only being allowed to live in such a place I was also able to experience society as a member of the community as well. Although I wouldn’t say i was treated like I was born and breed Japanese fellow citizen I can honestly say I experience the next best thing. For this I am grateful. However, with work comes routine and routine can bring boredom and stagnation, both I cringe at. Although I have kept very busy in my time here I also have had the urge to move on and experience new things. Now instead of leaving the country as a member of the workforce I will leave as a tourist and thus making these past three years complete. As I gaze across the Sea of Japan towards Ishikawa-Ken, Sado-San, and China beyond I can say with a heart full of enthusiasm that I made a greta decision to follow through on my dreams. Heading to sleep confident of myself and eager to get into the mountains.