- a glorious time of year when a string of holidays come together to create a week long holiday in Japan
- the last week of April into the first week of May
Since moving to Japan in 2013, the end of April has meant packing a bag and heading to the airport. Not to go on vacation, but to return to the New York Metro area for a few days. The few days spent in the United States were filled with things that needed to be taken care of as well as visits. Although enjoyable, it was also stressful. The first year I almost missed my return flight due to road closures in NYC because of a bike race. I always return more exhausted than when I left. Because of the International Dateline, I would arrive in NYC before I left Tokyo. This always is really neat. However, it works in reverse when returning to Japan. Crossing the International Dateline meant that I instantly lost a day. Having to be back at work always meant building a “buffer day” into my schedule.
For example, if Golden Week started on a Friday and ended on a Thursday, I could leave Friday morning and arrive in NYC that afternoon (it takes a few hours to get to Tokyo). I would have to depart NYC on Tuesday. This means I would arrive in Japan Wednesday afternoon and back at my apartment late that night. Thursday would act as the “buffer day” to adjust to the time difference or in case of any travel delays. For those of you following the math, that means I would get three full days in the New York Metro area. I would lose three days to travel and time zones.
In the past year, some things have changed. This meant I did not have to travel back to the United States for Golden Week. I could have if I wanted to, but after flying back and forth a few times in the past year, I needed somewhere a bit closer. Should I stay in Japan? Visit China? Taiwan? Hong Kong? Macau? Korea? There were many options but no definite answer.
In the end I visited a place I’ve wanted to visit for some time now. It was not my best planned trip, nor the most comfortable. But hey, life is meant to be lived and going outside your comfort zone offers a chance to grow. This trip was filled with a few “firsts”.
- My first stay in a five-star hotel (I usually stay in hostels and guest houses)
- My first time ordering room service
- My first time sending my clothing out to be cleaned
- My first long layover
- My first time getting in a bit of trouble at the Beijing Airport
- My first (and – I hope – only) time drinking cheap vodka in front of customs officers in Beijing (this is related to #5)
- My first time photographing a protest
- And, most importantly (and completely unplanned) – THIS!
I was sitting in my window seat thinking Hey, that’s a pretty nice mountain. It’s really pretty. It kind of looks like, wait, is that, naw, can’t be, wait, it is! Mt. Fuji!
In the end, no one was arrested and I made it back to Japan in one piece. My luggage is little worse off than when I left, but hey, it made it back in one piece too. I flew over a desert, landed at an airport with an approach involving mountains, and walked around with a wad of depreciating currency.
No, really, look at these prices!
So where did I go…