2 Years in Japan- Looking Back (in Pictures!)

Two years.

That’s half of college. My entire Jr. High school career. An Associate’s Degree. The time it takes to earn a Master’s. It’s the time it takes for a tiny, innocent newborn to talk and walk their way into the “Terrible Two’s”.

It’s the time it took for my best friend to get engaged, married, buy a house, and get her dream job with her name on an office door. It’s the amount of time it took for my sister to study abroad in her dream city, turn 21, finish college (early), walk (with everyone else) at her graduation, turn 22, try and fail and try and succeed at finding a real-person-grown-up-type job and move to L.A.

Two years is a long time.

And yet, it passed by in the blink of an eye.

If I think about it generally, these last two years took about a week. A month at most, if we really want to stretch it. It was a blur of working and students and friends and routines.

But if I start hashing out the details– actually seeing what I put into every day, every week, every month– then I realize just how much I’ve accomplished and how truly extraordinary my life has been.

I’ve forged friendships that will last forever, I’ve discovered new places– including my dream destination– both by myself and with others, I’ve seen the goodness of people to others that can’t even speak the same language, and I’ve challenged myself and learned more than I knew was possible.

Even though I’m nearing the end of my journey here, I know more amazing adventures still lie ahead of me and I can’t imagine how much I’ll learn and grow from those! As much as I love my comfort zone, the blank canvas of infinite possibilities that is my future has a definite appeal.

These pictures (all unedited, call me lazy) are just a tiny fraction of what I’ve experienced in my second year here in Japan. I’m especially sad I can’t show you my absolute favorite moments: the ones with my kids! They’re just too cute for my poor heart to handle! *dies*

I thought I’d keep this very Japanese and go through the year by  the seasons. I hope you enjoy and are inspired to find adventure and joy in your own life!

SPRING

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I took a trip to Kyoto over Spring Break and Googled “little known sakura viewing points” and wound up in this graveyard.
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Spring Break was specifically to visit THIS! The newly opened Hogwarts and Hogsmead in Universal Studios, Osaka!
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The weather was actually really nice usually so I walked all over exploring more of Hokota. 🙂
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Tokyo Disneyland, Curry Popcorn, and Very Berry Churros!
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I went bungee jumping in Hitachiota and I’m still not sure if I loved it or hated it!
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I went to Nikko for the first time for the Grand Spring Festival, stayed at an onsen resort with friends, and finally got to see yabusame (horseback archery)!

SUMMER

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I went to Takahagi beach with friends. The water is clear, the caves are fascinating, and the people-watching is adorable (all the small children)!
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I went to Fukuroda Falls in Daigo so many times!
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And I went hiking… A Lot!
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Mt. Nantai, Tochigi
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Mt. Bandai, Fukushima
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Mt. Bandai, Fukushima (I LOVE Fukushima!)
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Slopes descending Mt. Fuji
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I hiked Mt. Fuji twice this year bringing my total up to 3 summits! The first time with my dad <3 who came to visit…
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And the second a week later with the indomitable Sarah for a two-day sunrise hike!
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The sunrise from Mt. Fuji!
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I went to a baseball game with my dad. The Yokohama BayStars! They lost…
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I went to the Hitachi Sand Art Festival!
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I went for a run and a homeless little kitten followed me home. <3 Cue eternal love and concerned vet visits before finding him a forever home *sniff* My sweet little Mamoru is now dubbed Louis (yes, as in Louis Vuitton…)
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This man in Ueno Park taught me how to feed the birds and get them to land on my hand!
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Fireworks everywhere! Undoubtedly my favorite part of summer!
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I returned to Nara Park to show my dad my favorite place in Japan! The peace and the history… Unmatched!

 

FALL

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I ventured off the beaten path to the Taya Caves! Fascinating caves with Buddhist art all over the walls! You explore the whole thing only by candlelight.
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Enjoyed the strangest Thanksgiving ever with Costco pizza and rotisserie chicken, potatoes, peaches, cornbread, some Puerto Rican dish, etc. Good times!
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Sports Day for my kids! Great weather, though wet the entire week before.
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Golden fields of rice being harvested and dried!
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The Tsuchiura Fireworks Festival. Last of the year and the biggest!
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More hiking to be had! This is Go-Shiki-Numa, Fukushima.
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Walking to Mt. Nantai Trailhead, Ibaraki
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Mt. Oku-Shirane, Gunma/Tochigi
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Go-Shiki-Numa, Fukushima
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Then the Umakappe Festival in Hokota! So much good food in that tower of produce!
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I finally found Isosaki Shrine in Oarai, Ibaraki!
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Apple picking in Daigo, Ibaraki. They’re known for their delicious apples!
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I went to Kamakura! The ‘Kyoto of the East’ and saw the Giant Buddha (Daibutsu)!
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We hiked to the Daibutsu after being adopted into a Buddhist Temple by sweet old ladies. 🙂
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Beach in Kamakura.

 

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It’s rare to find a guesthouse (or any house really) with an irori. An indoor fire pit.   Kamakura Guesthouse delivers! My favorite overnight so far!

WINTER 

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Japanese Class Annual Trip!

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The two students! (No, we are not a couple no matter how many times our kids ask!)

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My Jr High Bounenkai and this is how it turned out… (He was a pretty Hermione) LOL

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First shrine visit of the year on Mt. Yamizu, Ibaraki/Fukushima
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My first cat cafe!!!!
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The famous Shinkyo Bridge in Nikko, Tochigi
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Snow and ice hiking to a valley of frozen waterfalls, Nikko, Tochigi
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Hiking in Nikko, Tochigi
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Frozen waterfall, Nikko, Tochigi
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A shrine near the Yuki Matsuri, the Snow Festival, in Sapporo, Hokkaido
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One of the main snow sculptures, Yuki Matsuri, Sapporo, Hokkaido
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Representing Sapporo Beer! Yuki Matsuri, Sapporo, Hokkaido
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Skiing in Teine, Hokkaido
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It’s snowing at the Sapporo TV Tower, we went to the top! Hokkaido
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Yuki Matsuri with the best friends! Sapporo, Hokkaido
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Winter garden at one of my Elementary Schools, Hokota, Japan
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Exploring Kita-Ibaraki!
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View from Rokkakudo, Kita-Ibaraki, Ibaraki
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View of Rokkakudo from park, rebuilt after the 2011 tsunami, Kita-Ibaraki, Ibaraki
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We’ve circled back to the Mito Plum Blossom Festival in early February! Ibaraki
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Ume (Plum Blossoms) and Senba Lake, Mito, Ibaraki
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Fox statues at Kasama Inari Shrine, Kasama, Ibaraki
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Candle designs are a huge part of the Yume Ume Matsuri, the Evening Plum Blossom Festival in March in Mito, Ibaraki.
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After leaving Hokota I stayed in Numazu with the indomitable Sarah for a few weeks. Can’t beat the view!
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The nearly empty apartment on moving day… Yes, I cried.

Wow! So many memories (even without summer in China and Christmas in California) and it was ridiculously hard to pare these down! Thanks for staying the journey with me everyone, I really do appreciate each and every one of you who reads this blog! Your support means the world to me!

Let me know if you liked this post and what else you’d like to see on this blog. I’m always open to suggestions!

So, here’s to many more adventures to come!

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4 thoughts on “2 Years in Japan- Looking Back (in Pictures!)

  1. Japan looks stunning no matter what season! The elementary school garden looks lovely! I’m definitely going to be reading more of your Japan posts. Can you name a few of your favorite shrines/temples in Japan?

    1. Welcome! Japan is endlessly gorgeous. It made taking decent photos pretty easy! 😀 My favorite shrine is Itsukushima Shrine on Miyajima Island just south of Hiroshima.It is the home of the giant torii in the water at high tide and you can walk up to it at low tide. The shrine itself is also just beautiful. Nikko’s Toshogu shrine is also beautiful and has a famous Spring Festival every year. I lived nearby Kashima shrine which is in Ibaraki and is one of the oldest in the country. They have a big bash at New Year’s! I also lived nearby Isosaki Shrine in Oarai, Ibaraki which is a very popular place to watch the first sunrise of the year (or any sunrise really) as it’s on the ocean and has a torii on some rocks out in the ocean! Of course Senso-ji temple in Asakusa, Tokyo is a popular tourist highlight and I love going at sunset as it’s less crowded and the lights on the buildings start shining. Kyoto has no ugly shrines. See them all! Nara too, good daytrip from Kyoto! Hope those help!

  2. Thank you!!! This made me even more excited to travel to Japan, I don’t even know where to begin my trip! I’d probably stick to Kyoto for now and do a day-trip to Nara. Your recommendations are going to help me narrow down my choices. Thank you Kendra!

    1. My pleasure! Let me know if you have any more questions. 🙂 If you’re going to Kyoto I recommend spending a day and just walking around without a plan in one of the districts like Arashiyama, Nishijin, or Higashiyama. There are so many out of the way places that are just magical! Have fun!!!!

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