japan

Posted on January 6, 2016

Oh hi, I hope your holidays were lovely, restful and delicious. We spent ours in Sacramento with the families, managed catch up with a few old friends while in town, and tacked on two beautiful, snowy days at my grandparent’s cabin in the mountains to ring in the new year. We also said goodbye to sweet, old family dog and weathered scary stint in the ER with my mom. Life is an ever changing balance between lightness and darkness. A little Jedi wisdom for your Wednesday.

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It seems like ages ago now, but Japan! Japan! I am fortunate enough to work for a company for whom sending the team on a sightseeing trip half way around the world is fair reward for meeting our yearly goals. Not many are so lucky. (Ps. We’re hiring). Our co-founder Chaz arranged a jammed-packed itinerary, cramming two weeks of activities across Toyko, Hakone, Kyoto and Nara into just 5 days. Not unlike our last trip to Taipei, it was an amazing, fascinating blur.

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Japan is beautiful and perplexing. Tradition and modernity seem to coexist peacefully in remarkably close quarters—a tolerance foreign to us in the United States. Though it may be energetic, neon and fetishistic, Japan is also calm, orderly and rooted in history. The care and attention to detail across every facet of life is astounding and so, so pleasurable to experience first hand. And everything is adorably decorated, designed or packaged! I loved it.

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We began in Toyko. A massive fish market, breakfast sushi, 10+ story anime/gaming mega stores, exquisite tempura, adorable stationary, dinner sushi, tiny bars,1 am ramen, 53rd story views, contemporary art, more ramen. Why sleep when you’re in Tokyo for just two days.

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Then we were off to Hakone to stay at a traditional Ryokan inn and experience Japan at a very different pace. Upon arriving, you change out of your western clothes and into a special robe, which coincidentally is the perfect attire for a product roadmap meeting. Our rooms were simply furnished in tatami mats, low tables and adorable lamps. In the basement of the small inn, there were hot springs. Segregated by gender, you ditch your robe, shower and then lounge in the natural hot spring water for as long as you like. If there is anything more peaceful than relaxing in a hot spring under the stars or with the sunrise, I’d love to hear about it.

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After a amazingly intricate Japanese breakfast and short walk around an outdoor sculpture museum, we took the bullet train to Kyoto. A city of centuries old temples, Kyoto is home to the most stunning fall color you’ve ever seen in your life. We arrived at the perfect moment. The gardens around the temples in Japan are exquisitely maintained, but still flowing and organic. The plants are allowed to be themselves, not forced into geometric shapes, and it is glorious.

We visited the longest temple, the temple with the most buddhas (1001 and each hand-carved!), the largest temple, the goldest temple, the oldest temple (1000 years old!), the temple with the most red gates, the most powerful temple. The craftsmanship of every one is impeccable—it has to be to survive for so many years—and it was lovely to see the diversity and the continuity between temple designs. We received our love fortunes (mine was very good, thankfully, and has found a home in my wallet) and said prayers for success, health and happiness.

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In Kyoto, we ate several kaiseki, a traditional, seasonal multi-course meal. Kaiseki is where the Japanese attention to detail really shines. Each dish is served in a perfectly matched vessel and topped with adorable garnishes. Artistic is the best way to describe kaiseki.  The pork katsu we had for lunch one day at Chaz’s favorite spot from college was also pretty stellar. Better than mine, I must admit.

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We ended our trip in Nara. In Nara, the deer outside the temple demand you feed them perfectly packaged crackers by nipping at your pockets. There was also soba noodles, nato and matcha soft serve ice cream. The ramen at the Osaka airport is perfectly serviceable.

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And after all that,  I’m sure we just scratched the surface. I cannot wait to get back.

I took most of these photos on our trusty Canon AE-1, but lost a roll due to a tragic film-winding failure. A sadness rarely felt in this digital age. Luckily, my talented co-workers Adrian, Chaz and Steven, had my back. Several photos in this post were taken by them.

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