Stripes' Trip: My first trip to Japan

by ChiHon Kim
Stripes Japan

My worktrip to Tokyo in June was amazing. There are many parts that I enjoyed and many more that I will not soon forget.

The beautiful landscapes, countless shrines, old temples, the laughs I shared with my team members and the kindness of the locals still remain in my heart, now a few months since my visit. And thinking back on the trip, it still feels as peaceful as the sound of the pan flute I heard at Ueno Park on my last day in Tokyo.

The time I spent visiting Enoshima Island flows slowly in my mind. The Enoden Train with its unhurried pace gave me the opportunity to fully take in the beautiful scenery of the coastline. Even Shonan Beach’s dark sand and dark waters, though menacing at first, I hold warmly, as this is where I can now say I caught my first wave.

I won’t quickly forget the fresh shirasu and sweet craft beer I devoured after a walk to the top of Enoshima. Nor will I forget the view of the dazzling sea from the restaurant pushing me to come back again soon.

At Mozen-Nakacho, on another fine day in Tokyo, in an attempt to escape tourist sites, I came across a fire ritual at Fukagawa-Fudo Temple. The sound of beating taiko drums and the blowing of conch shells by monks gave me the willies.

The ceremony also involved blessing personal belongings like a purse in the flames, so I handed my bag and hat to one of the monks forget that done. A unique experience that I have never experienced at a Korean temple.

I didn’t seek out popular restaurants, as I already know that the fame of a restaurant doesn’t guarantee the best dishes. There, on the streets around Tokyo, I found the tastes of the country. In the bowl of ramen inside Ameyoko Market, the cup of coffee from the experimental café on Kiyosumi-Shirakawa Dori, and from the glass of sake at a pub at Golden Gai in Shinjuku on a rainy Monday evening, I sampled Japan.

And similarly, while tourist-popular Sensoji Temple in the center of the city was breathtaking with its grand architecture and lanterns, I found the beauty of Japan in smaller, down-the-beaten-path locales. It was in the delicate woodcarving of Nitenmon Gate at Shibamata Taishakuten Temple and in the thoughtfulness of those around me. I won’t soon forget the kindness of the eel restaurant employee who ran out after me when I forgot my umbrella at the table.

Although crowded tourist attractions were not so attractive for me, I could feel the charm of Tokyo from the neatly arranged pretty flower pots I encountered in front of a small house at a residential area in downtown Tokyo and the colorful advertising lights of skyscrapers that stand alongside the highway as we drove back to the city from our daytrip to Enoshima.

When I woke up the next morning in Korea after the trip, Tokyo and everything I did felt like a dream. I felt like the butterfly of ancient Chinese philosopher Zhuangzi’s Butterfly Dream story, exploring a beautiful country and feeling in a dream state after. Though, my time in Tokyo was short and felt like a dream, this work trip has given me memories to last a lifetime.

 

We’re here for you

We believe the purpose of our community papers, websites, magazines and special supplements is to help you, the military community, make the most of your time while being stationed in the Pacific. For us to do our job properly, we go out and experience things first-hand so we can tell you about it, offer tips and give you directions. Our team, including our Okinawan writer, Shoji Kudaka, and our Korean writer, ChiHon Kim, gathered this past summer at our Tokyo headquarters for a week so our writers, page designers and web team could brainstorm story ideas and discuss how to best display and tell the tales of our adventures.

Last week we posted on this site Part I about a day trip ChiHon, Shoji, mainland Japan writer Takahiro Takiguchi and editor Denisse Rauda took together to Enoshima and Kamakura during that summer session. They did so much, took so many photos and wrote so many stories, that we could not fit everything into one package. So, this week we’re posting Part II. The guy standing in the photo above is ChiHon. It was his first trip to Japan. Read above to see what he thought of the Land of the Rising Sun. Take a look at the stories below from the rest of the crew during their fun day trip. Then plan your own!

– Chris Carlson, Publishing and Media Design Manager

 

Stripes' Trip: Stroll around Great Buddha

Stripes' Trip: Well, Hello, Kitty!

Stripes' Trip: Hot dog! A unique way to eat whitebait

Stripes' Trip: Tasty craft beer breaks in Kamakura and Enoshima

Stripes' Trip: Surf’s up

VIDEO| Catch a wave on Enoshima Beach

VIDEO| Komachi Street in Kamakura

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