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Japan, I love you

Remember how I said I wanted travel to be a priority in 2018? I’m making good on my promise. Big Ginger and I spent two weeks in Japan earlier this month, exploring Tokyo, Hakone, Naoshima, Kyoto, and Takayama.

Japan is kind of a cat lover's paradise.

We braved the subway during rush hour (tightly wedged in with businessmen in black suits, white shirts, and black ties; all of them totally silent, some sleeping while standing, gently swaying with the train), hiked two peaks for views of Mt. Fuji (oh how I miss mountains), did laps around a hilly island on electric bikes (yes, I felt incredibly guilty but still couldn’t help yelling: “Look how good I am at climbing!”), saw a real-life geisha on her way to work at a Gion teahouse (it felt like a celebrity sighting), marveled at the cherry blossoms (and at the hanami, elaborate picnics beneath the blooms), drank an incredible amount of Japanese whisky (Taketsuru 17 is so good that it's spoiled me forever), and ate everything we could get our hands on (which didn’t turn out so well for gluten-intolerant me, who ended up “discreetly" barfing on a pristine Tokyo street in front of schoolchildren).

Of course, I also made Big Ginger go to two cat cafes and a shrine honoring maneki neko, the ubiquitous lucky cat. And we walked through a pet store that sold nothing but pet clothing, pants included. (Sadly, we didn’t make it to any of the cat islands – getting to them involves a lot of logistics and multiple modes of transportation. However, I did see some feral cats at Fushimi Inari Taisha in Kyoto; apparently it’s home to many cats, who emerge once the tourists leave.)

I know people fall in love with France (guilty as charged), Italy, and Ireland. You hear about that all the time. But I can’t stop thinking about Japan – the hospitality, the attention to detail (even convenience store onigiri is meticulously wrapped and presented), the way everything feels so hyper-modern and secular yet simultaneously so infused with centuries of history and an almost breathtaking sense of the sacred.

Sakura in Takayama.

 I want to go back.

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