Tokyo - Japan - © Claire Blumenfeld

Japanese walkabouts

Chapter 1
The beginnings
Japan | 6 months
November 2015 – April 2016
Blending technology and ancient traditions, Japan is a land of contrasts that has attracted me since my youth. Mid 2015, at the end of several years of studies that leave me with questions for the future, I decided to leave alone on a trip across the country. I wander through Kyushu, Honshu, Okinawa, Shikoku. And faces the difficulties of comprehension and the weight of history.
After a short crossing of 1 hour, I arrived in the city of Shimabara, northeast of the Shimabara Peninsula, located in Nagasaki Prefecture. It is a nice cold sun. After leaving my bag at the hostel, I walk quietly around. Shimabara is a small port city stretching along the coast at the foot of Mount Mayuyama.
My first two weeks of Wwoofing at Youth Hostel Country Road went very well. I had originally planned to leave on Monday 21st December, but I will finally stay more. I really like Yufuin and Ryo-san offered me to accompany them to see the festivities in Beppu, at the occasion of Christmas.
Departure from Hiroshima for the island of Kyûshû where I will spend the month of December.  Kyushu is one of Japan's four major islands. It is the southernmost of the islands and is considered to be the birthplace of Japanese civilization. The island is mountainous with many volcanoes.
Visit of the island of Miyajima with Doris. Forty minutes by tram and ten minutes by ferry and here we are on the sacred island of Miyajima. It is forbidden to be born there, to die there and to cut trees. The vegetation is lush and the various temples and shrines housed in the island are beautiful.
Hiroshima. And the Atomic Bomb. Visiting the city I go for the Genbaku Dome and the Peace Memorial and Museum. The visit is really painful but extremely recommended. The weight of history is pushing my body to the ground. Hard to believe when I walk across the city now that all this horror happened before.
At first sight Kochi is very similar to Tokushima (from an architectural point of view), but there is a feeling of "more of the South". Located on the Kagami river delta (which means "Mirror", the water of the river being particularly pure), Kôchi saw the birth lots of samurai famous in history.
Direction the Valley of Iya. Located in the heart of the mountain, with deep gorges and thick forests. At the end of the 12th century, following the war of Gempei, the last members of the Heike clan after their defeat against the Minamoto, found refuge here. Apparently their descendants still live in the valley. 
After spending the morning of Wednesday, November 25 to organise the details, in Tokushima, departure in the afternoon for Minami. I take a small regional train of two cars that are filled a little bit more at each stop. All the schoolchildren in the room take the same line.
From November 24th to December 2nd, I'm going for a walk on Shikoku Island. It is the smallest of the four big islands of Japan. Shikoku is famous for its mountainous landscapes, its small fishing villages and especially the pilgrimage of 88 temples. First step of this journey: Tokushima.
This second week, I stayed in a Japanese family living in Arakawa district and I continued my walk in Tokyo. I saw a Kabuki play, enjoyed the Christmas illuminations and continue to adapt myself to the Japan way.
Second part of my article about my first impressions of Tokyo. The weekend went well. The weather having cleared a bit, it allowed me to see Tokyo in a different light. I also met Michiko, Japanese living in Chiba, a town about 2 hours from Tokyo. I corresponded with Michiko for several weeks via internet before coming to Japan.
First week in Tokyo. The flight went well, although it seemed a little long at the end. 11:30 flight, it's not an easy task. The 8-hour time difference with France were felt, especially at the beginning of the week. The weather was cloudy almost everyday. The hotel is very simple (tatami and futon), but I did not encounter many people. Despite my (few) hours of learning, I have some difficulty for speaking Japanese. These first few days have left me a strange feeling. Between familiarity, originality and solitude.
Since 3, 4 years, the idea of going on a long journey after my studies kept running through my head. Australia, New Zealand, Iceland, Japan, here are the destinations I had in mind.