My apologies for not having the writeup of my Mt. Fuji climb (in the off season, no less) up by now. I've been very sick this week and haven't felt like doing much besides eating and sleeping... sometimes not even eating. I certainly can't focus my thoughts without a good run.
This last trip, I fell back into my Japan habits as easily as slipping on an old shoe: slurping ramen noodles as loudly as I cared (drew the attention of one guy: 'I've never seen a foreigner eat ramen like a Japanese'), bowing and showing humility (also applicable in Korea), and discovering my language skills weren't quite as dead as I'd have thought. But one question kept coming up, from my time in Busan with Couchsurfers, to my stay in Shizuoka, to my night in a Hakone hot springs resort:
Why choose Japan? Why are you interested in Japan? Why not Europe, China, Africa, Canada, South America?
I've added a piece of this answer to my blog entries over the course of three years, but it'd be good to give a concise answer to those reading now. Japan has always had a place in the back of my mind, since learning of its existence while playing original Nintendo games in the 1980's; what place could imagine such marvels, I wondered. A place of magic (triforces), giant spiders, and heroes and demons. Of course I now know that's a bit of an exaggeration, but at the time, I would have sworn Japan was everything it represented in those 8-bit cartridges.
As I got a little older, I didn't sway too much from this view, besides being a little more grounded... didn't think magic was real, anyway. But the country still swayed my heart, and I knew I'd have to visit one day.
Between the early 90's and 2006, there was practically no exploration on my part: I had stuff to do. Homework to complete, tests to ace, ladies to woo. Japanese culture just wasn't appealing anymore, not that it ever really was. We're talking about Nintendo, not language, customs, or history. Still, that was enough to ignite a spark when I saw the notice by AEON in 2006. The rest, as you know, is here in writing.