This is my first travel post.
The odd thing is, I don’t travel that much. I used to, but that was a long time ago. With two kids at home and college tuition in the not-so-distant future, I focus on local things like the beach and visiting the grandparents on both sides of the family. So, I’m going to change it up a little. I’m going to dig into my photo archives and find places I visited years ago. I’ll give you a hint, though this is probably a given. We’re traveling to Japan. The goal of this game is to guess a specific city in Japan. The place I’m thinking of is a well-known tourist location, popular with both Japanese and non-Japanese. It’s a wonderful city. I’ve visited it twice. Unfortunately, only for one day each time.
If I may be permitted, I’d like to say a little about Japan, as Japan seems to be a mystery to many. It is composed primarily of four main islands. I lived there for four years and also met my wife there. (Japan has over 6,000 islands and over 400 of them are inhabited. However, 97% of the population is located on the four main islands.)
As someone who loves history and has a fascination with Japan, one of the things I’ve marveled at is how “awareness” of Japan remained a mystery to the west. Japan was essentially at the “edge” of the world. Ancient explorers wouldn’t have approached Japan from the east (across the Pacific Ocean). China and Korea were aware of it early. The Chinese first documented contact with Japan in the mid-first century. India had contact with Japan as early as the 6th century. The Mongols were aware of Japan. (They tried twice to invade.) The Muslim nations were aware of Japan, though they had no direct contact.
However, despite the West’s contact with much of Asia via the Silk Road (established 200 B.C.E.) and much of Asia being aware of Japan, Japan was unknown to the West until Marco Polo referenced it from conversations he had while in China. In his writings, Polo speaks of “Zipangu,” a land of gold with a temple of gold. When the Portuguese, the first Europeans to visit Japan, saw the golden temple in Kyoto (shown below- Image courtesy of num_skyman / FreeDigitalPhotos.net), they were likely struck with awe.
They may have even assumed this was the temple Polo mentioned. Eventually, they would realize that the Golden Temple was built 100 years after Polo left China. (The Japanese are nothing if not hospitable. I can see it now. Hey, we have a message from China to expect weird-looking barbarians at some point in the future. Some high official got plastered on rice wine and told the barbarians that we have a golden temple.)
So, I leave you with two pictures. (The picture of the temple has nothing to do with the location we’re trying to guess.) The first picture is of us boarding a train that would take us toward the destination for this game, but it was only the first train we would board that day.
The train is the bullet train. The sign in the top right corner of the picture says the train is bound for Tokyo. (We’re in Osaka in this picture.)
The second picture is of my wife and me at the destination city. It’s not much to go on, but we have a few weeks.
Hope you enjoy the trip to Japan.
Note: Japan map courtesy of http://www.worldembassyinformation.com/world-maps/maps-of-japan.html