Merry Christmas, if you’re into that sort of thing

16 Mar

Last year — two weeks before Christmas — I handed over a smile and my passport to a Japanese customs officer.

Moshi Moshi!

Moshi Moshi!

I had a very happy Christmas Day.  20 second link.

Even cooler in person.

Even cooler in person

When I was small my parents got me a realistic animal book and the very first page was a herd of buffalo with their horns out, making a circle, protecting their young.  And the second page was essentially the above photo except that 18 years later that picture was taken by ‘mi.  After I spent the whole of December 25th, 2014 hanging out in a park with wild snow monkeys I realised that dreams can be hard to articulate but they make you restless and smell good and are always there.


Japan is out of this universe.




Golden Pavilion.

The iconic Golden Pavilion.

Japanese people don’t jostle each other even during rush hour!   It’s a remarkably safe country and I felt comfortable acting like a tourist; mouth agape, bag unzipped, camera snapping.  Public and private bathrooms are amazing, clean, and all have heated toilet seats.

In Tokyo, a city of crowds, I stayed in a traditional Ryokan (a Japanese bath house) in the quiet, old district called Ueno.  I viewed the city from above, saw Robots in Shinjuku, walked the streets of Shibuya, and spent an entire day stalking Sumo Wrestlers. I explored temples in Kyoto, met generous Misaki on the street, cooked, and made life-long friends.

My favorite city was Nagano and it turns out that I like Osaka more than most.

Mt. Fiji

Mt. Fiji at dusk

Went bathing in an outdoor Onsen, Takaragawa.  They told me it was the size of "470 Tatomi mats".

They told me this outdoor Onsen was the size of “470 Tatami Mats”.



At The Tsukiji Fish Market things from The Sea had all been removed from their original context and juxtaposed incongruously amongst pavement and people and yet seemed perfectly in place. I  hardly recognised anything.

I pointed to sushi off menus that I couldn’t understand. Every storefront I saw looked like the outside of a yoga studio.


The Japanese don’t walk and eat so I sat down to eat my harf and harf green tea ice cream with beans.

In restaurants my order was taken last and on trains people tried to create space around me.  It could have been because I smelled like the food that I had eaten or because of a belief that foreigners carry diseases.

There were Japanese gardens made of gravel that no one was allowed to walk on and I laughed every time I saw a bouquet of flowers after a play I had seen that outlined just how skilled Japanese people are at making floral arrangements. Apparently it runs in their blood.

I got the feeling that San Ramon, Costa Rica was closer than ever.

I came to understand that it’s hard to sleep in an Internet cafe and not because of the lights, confined space, or cigarette smoke. It’s hard because of lightning fast Internet at your fingertips and included-in-the-price, caffeinated soft drinks out of a vending machine.

My weeks in Japan were delicious and memorable. I flew back “home” to the warmth of Australia on a New Years ticket.


“Fall seven times and standup eight.” – Japanese proverb


12 Responses to “Merry Christmas, if you’re into that sort of thing”

  1. deekerson March 16, 2015 at 3:45 pm #

    Very nice to hear more about your Japan excursion. I’ll understand even more once I research some of the words I don’t recognize. xoxo

    • Sammi Travis March 16, 2015 at 3:47 pm #

      Oh good! Happy to keep you posted even though it’s belated.

  2. Russell March 16, 2015 at 4:27 pm #

    I LOVE the Japanese proverb…..and the harf and harf…and your face.

    • Sammi Travis March 17, 2015 at 12:36 am #

      You are SO positive!
      It’s refreshing. And contagious. Thanks for reading so closely. Makes me want to come hangout with you!!!!!

  3. Debbie March 16, 2015 at 8:32 pm #

    I always love your stuff.

    • Sammi Travis March 17, 2015 at 12:36 am #

      Thanks Debbie!! Such a nice compliment!!

  4. Jerry and Kathy Pitts March 17, 2015 at 5:18 am #

    Sammi did we ever talk about the 100th monkey, their is where it came from, if not, look it up, very interesting ! Great photos looks great !

  5. Rachel March 17, 2015 at 8:31 pm #

    I can’t believe how close you got to those monkeys! They look really scary. I love reading and seeing pictures of your adventures – keep posting!

    • Sammi Travis March 18, 2015 at 4:37 am #

      Thanks!! They were so magical, not scary or aggressive at all. Playful and cold, mostly. As you can probably imagine I have 200 pictures 🙂

  6. Mama March 18, 2015 at 2:08 am #

    The Onsen looks like our new cottage this snowy winter. Can’t wait til you’re nestled in, at least for a little while, my beautiful wanderer. xoxo

  7. Colleen Bergman-Cole March 19, 2015 at 10:56 pm #

    This has to be one of my favorite posts. So well written, Sam! And with such amazing photos!! It’s so fun to be able to have a peak into you adventures.

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