Today I move to Japan.
Sat in the departures lounge of Madrid Barajas Airport and my brain still hasn’t processed that sentence. Japan! That’s 6616.43 miles, 1,064,812 metres, 12 hours on a plane across 2 continents. Tomorrow marks day one of my seven month Asian adventure. Two months crossing China and South East Asia, followed by 5 months of exchange at the University of Osaka. This is the first time in four years that I’ve defected, and although it won’t be the first time I’ve lived abroad, it is the furthest I’ve ever been from home for more than a couple of months. My stomach is a cocktail of butterflies and childlike excitement (think 6 year old airlifted into Disneyland). It’s a new chapter for me (though hopefully one with fewer clichés). As I so often like to tag in my Facebook and Instagram posts, this guiri is going on tour!
I could continue to rant on for hours about how I’m feeling right now but to avoid loosing that which is more important to me than anything else in this life, your attention dear reader. We shall move swiftly on to the photo. The symbolism is mind blowing is it not? (I really hope blogs register sarcasm). I took this photo last year at Hongu Taisha, one of the three main shrines of Japan’s ethereal Kumano Kodo. Dominating the landscape is the largest torii gate in the world, visible from the surrounding mountain tops. The shrine itself, now relocated to a nearby hilltop after it suffered flood damage in 1889, is one of the most important of the Shinto faith and for over 900 years stood on the confluence between the Kumano and Otonashi rivers: where the torii now stands. Passing under this titanic construction, you become aware that you are entering an area of extreme spiritual importance. For me this otherworldliness is very similar to that wave of bewilderment that crashes into you when you step off the plane for the first time and onto the foreign land that is to become your home. Admittedly this isn’t the moon landing, I’m not the first person to move to another country poor to write a blog about it for that matter, but this still is going to be one hell of a journey.