At any rate she came to Japan on Dec. 22 after something like 38 hours of traveling. I kept a bare bones diary of what we did day to day because for 12 days we were running full throttle to make the most of our time together. So much happened while Alice was here I am actually unsure what the best way to approach writing about and sharing it all. I think I will start with just the bare bones of the trip for today and follow that up with a more reflective post after I have some time to really workout everything that was taken in. So without further hesitation here's the nuts and bolts of what happened:
Dec 22: Alice arrived in Susaki on a bus at 7:08 in the morning after a ten hour bus ride, two 8 or 9 hour flights, and an 18 hour layover in Doha, Qatar. She championed through a little drowsiness and spent the day meeting my students and coworkers. That night was also the bon enkai for my school so she cleaned all up and came out for the big end of the year party.
Dec 23: Alice slept till 1:30 (just over 13 hours). We cooked together, and adventured down to the large local market to look for what we wanted to eat later in the week. We ate at one of my favorite noodle shops, and spent the rest of the evening relaxing and remembering those we both miss from Wooster.
Dec 24: Went to Aki city to meet up with the usual crowd of Kochi's best and brightest for a huge Christmas party. There was feasting, drinking, festivities, a gift exchange, and even a bicycling santa appeared.
Dec 25: Aki is right on a stunning stone beach. Christmas morning was spent throwing stones into the ocean, sun bathing, and cooking yet again. Came home to Susaki to make eggnog, skype with family and friends, and watch It's a Wonderful Life (it just isn't Christmas without George Bailey).
Dec 26: Alice and another friend of mine went for a day hike along a beautiful mountainous stretch of the 88 temple trek that runs near Susaki, and returned to Susaki for another bon enkai (this time with the Susaki Broken English Club). Way too much good food, they dressed Alice up in kimono, and took us to karaoke after.
Dec 27: Spent the day in Kochi City. Took Alice to Kochi castle, and then met up with the lovely Mia who helped us adventure around for the rest of the day. She spirited us up to Godaisan (a mountain overlook of the city that has a beautiful example of what the 88 temple temples typically look like). The three of us then went to Hirome for beers, more great food, and even better conversations.
Dec 28th: This was a long day of travel. Susaki to Osaka and Osaka to Koyasan. Took all day, but Koyasan, even in the dark, was beautiful. We checked into our temple (yep we stayed in a temple), and prepared to wake up the next day super early for morning prayers with the monks.
Dec 29th: Up at 5:45 for morning ceremonies and meditation. Delicious vegan (monk's standard diet) breakfast, and out early into the snow and cold. Walked through the huge and beautiful Buddhist graveyard. Spent most of the day going from temple to temple and reading about why Koyasan is so important to Buddhism and the 88 temple trek I am doing. In mid afternoon we returned to Osaka where we spent the rest of the day vigorously hopping from bar to bar sampling the many different classic snacks and treats the Japanese frequently dine on while enjoying a beer or three. Temples one night to neon uber city the next.
Dec 30th: Spent the night in a capsule hotel and woke up to find out most of the museums we had planned on going to were closed for the new year. Spent the day in an Onsen (Japanese hot springs spa) instead, and worked our way to Nara (Japan's first capital).
Dec 31st: Nara is infested with tiny deer! They are thought to be the messengers of the gods . . . spent the day going to temples and museums. Saw the largest wooden structure in the world, and one of the biggest Buddha statues I have ever seen. Issued in the new year in a huge crowd of people waiting to pray at the temple of this huge Buddha, and sipped on a bottle of bubbly while walking through the street fair that mysteriously popped up all over the temple grounds.
Jan 1st: Coffee and doughnuts to start the new year, and a day spent hitting the last few temples we missed in Nara. Enjoying a big final feast together and reflecting on the trip we had.
Jan 2nd: Alice leaves Japan. . . .
WELLLL there you have it. After Alice left I spent a few days in Osaka with some Japanese friends of mine. You can see all the photos of Alice's grand adventure on my lovely Flickr page, but for now I think this post has gone on long enough. It is safe to say I have had an incredible past few weeks, and I can't thank Alice enough for coming all the way here to spend sometime with her Brother Bear. I hope all my family and friends back home had equally wonderful holidays, and may your Year of the Dragon (yep that's right) be everything you want it to be!
More to come.