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Japan and Back in 7 days

Kohfukuh National Treasure Hall; Nara, Japan Copyright Andy Richards 2015

Kohfukuh National Treasure Hall; Nara, Japan
Copyright Andy Richards 2015

During my school years, I was fascinated with history. I graduated from undergraduate school with a second major in U.S. history. But much of my study was focused on the eastern hemisphere, including the United States and Europe.  This viewpoint was a bit self-centered as most of it was about the history of Europe and how that ultimately drove the settlement of the U.S.  My own ethnic heritage is European. So, maybe it was natural, when the time came to “see the world,” that my personal “bucket list,” included primarily European destinations. And I still certainly hope to visit the places of my own heritage, including someday, Germany, Switzerland, and the rest of the British Isles (readers here know we visited Ireland).

My sister was born in Okinawa

At the same time, I had only mild interest in the west, including China, Korea and Japan.  While on the “list,” they were lower in priority.  Which is interesting, considering the influences the west—especially Japan—had on my life. My father served in the Army during the latter part of the Korean war, in both Okinawa and briefly, in mainland Japan. I remember many connections as a youth, including decorative china and ebony chopsticks in my mom’s china cabinet, and my dad’s slideshows of his time over there; primarily Okinawa. My sister was born in Okinawa.

Fans; Japan 2015 Copyright Andy Richards 2015

Fans; Japan 2015
Copyright Andy Richards 2015

For reasons I cannot explain, my son has had a lifelong fascination with Japan, its language and its culture. Enough so, that he graduated with a minor in Japanese from Western Michigan University, spent a year in Tokyo in an exchange program, met (at Western), fell in love with, and married a Japanese woman.

Street Shops in Kyoto, Japan Copyright Andy Richards 2015

Street Shops in Kyoto, Japan
Copyright Andy Richards 2015

Things conspire to shape our lives. While it had not been part of any great plan, we traveled to Japan this month to attend the wedding of our son and daughter-in-law. These days, my trips are—more often than not—taking advantage of an opportunity, rather than as a planned photo-excursion. This was one of those. Ironically, we spent 4 of our 6 nights in Japan in Tokyo, and yet, got to see very little of this impressive metropolis. Most of that time was spent with the wedding, which was a relatively elaborate affair, and with family. No Tokyo sightseeing excursions were possible given the schedule.  My daughter stayed on in Japan for several more days and got a chance to spend some time in Tokyo.  I am anxious to hear about her adventures.  In my case, it just means that I must go back and spend some time seeing Tokyo, and perhaps visit other parts of Japan, including the northern parts.

My son has had a lifelong fascination with Japan and its culture

There is a saying that when your child marries, you do not “lose” them. In our case, we have gained not only a daughter, but new friends and family—her parents and her brother. They are not only genuine and very nice people, but incredible hosts. Among the many things they did for us during our 7 day visit, was the 3 days we spent visiting Kyoto and sightseeing in what is probably Japan’s most famous and major cultural heritage location.

Tokyo Tower, Tokyo, Japan Copyright Andy Richards 2015

Tokyo Tower, Tokyo, Japan
Copyright Andy Richards 2015

The next several blogs will, as become my custom here, chronicle (though that is probably an abuse of the word) our very brief, but very intensive visit to Japan (primarily Kyoto), perhaps underscore the reasons to visit again, see why there are some really magical things to see and experience in Japan.

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