Today I am heading back to Japan for a work trip. Japan has played a pivotal role in shaping who I am. It is the foreign country that I've visited the most and the only country outside of the US that I have lived.
My first trip to Japan was back in early April 2006 for a business trip a few months after I had started my job. I had never been anywhere in Asia before and I was thrilled at the chance to go. Being a work trip I didn't have much free time, of course, but I did have a Sunday off that I used for sightseeing. With just one day available for a mini trip and already being in Central Japan I decided to go to the obvious choice, Kyoto.
Kyoto is a magical place, full of amazing ancient temples and shrines. The fact that it was cherry blossom season only enchanted me even more. I visited some of the more famous sights of Kyoto including Nijo-jo, Nishi Hongan-ji, Kinkaku-ji, Sanjusangen-do, Heian-jinja and Kiyomizu-dera, soaking everything in and taking pictures.
After leaving Kiyomizu-dera I slowly wandered down the hill through the maze of shops and stores back to the road. I saw a trio of Maiko (apprentice geisha) and was impressed with their poise and beautiful kimono. I also had a chance to try Kyoto's famous sweet, yatsuhashi, which is a soft sweet rice flour wrapper with various fillings like sweet red bean. Ever since it has been a favorite special treat for me.
As I rode the Shinkansen from Kyoto back to Nagoya that evening I didn't know that I would eventually live in Japan or even that I would be back on several trips, but I did know that I had a special day and seen some amazing, beautiful places. I'm looking forward to going back...