Sometime earlier this year I decided to set out for a big adventure across Japan on foot. At the time, I had no idea how deeply this experience would change my life; I simply wanted to change my routine, to challenge myself and do something for Japan in honor of the lives lost in the March 11th tsunami.
I decided to leave my life in LA for a couple months and live with nothing but the things that fit in my backpack. I had never gone backpacking before and had no concept of how difficult the challenge would be. I was extremely naive. Fortunately, I possessed something that would allow me to finish my journey: faith.
|why motorcyclists should|
Well in the end, I sucked it up and just rolled with it. With the help of my friends I was able to get all of the stuff out of my apartment (I really view it all as useless crap now) and jammed it all into a 6'x7' storage room. I threw a big farewell party on the 1st, said my goodbyes and jumped on the flyaway bus to LAX on the morning of the 3rd. At this point I had $4.80. I had a check from my modeling gigs pending approval in my bank, so I wasn't worried. I also had about 1500 yen I found cleaning my room the week before. I used the last of my money to buy an egg sandwich at the airport, shut off service on my phone and jumped on board the plane. I remember crying to myself in the dark during the flight because I was so excited, I was in the middle of a big dream, I was letting my faith carry me to where I needed to be and it felt AMAZING.
The First Week in Tokyo
Arriving at Narita, I found my friend Daisuke waiting outside of the terminal. Even though he didn't have a job or money at the time, he paid for my Suica card to get ride the train into Tokyo. We chatted on the hour and half train ride and went to dinner at a family restaurant. Fortunately they accepted credit cards, so I was able to pay for the meal. Then I went out to Tsurumi to meet with my good friend Yoshi. Even though Yoshi's house was small, he welcomed me warmly and I felt so comfortable hanging out with him. We went out to eat and drink several nights before I left for Kyoto. I really cannot express how grateful I am to Yoshi; if there is any one person to who I owe my deepest gratitude during this adventure it is undoubtedly him.
Money went fast. Tokyo is a huge money sieve, and it takes a little time to figure out how to save money here. My first issue was finding a way to get cash from my American bank. Found the only way to do so was a "yuuchou ginko" at either post offices or 7-11 convenience stores. Then it was off to Akihabra to get a cell phone and camera equipment. Softbank was selling prepaid phones for 2000 yen, then a two month prepaid service is only 3000 yen. Done. Next, I picked up an external microphone for my iphone in Akihabra for 12000 yen, batteries, a tripod bag, some clamp thing and a big fanny pack. Now I was ready to start filming like an amateur!
Things were looking good, I got a couple donations from friends and family back home, and thought I would be able to actually finish this trip with no problem. Then I got sick, very sick. Fever, cough, sore throat. I was planning to visit a clinic, but they were closed for the weekend so I just picked up a bunch of over the counter drugs and checked out of Yoshi's place and into a local business hotel. I slept like a baby and was recovered enough on the afternoon of the 9th to go out and celebrate my birthday eve. I drank right through the flu I had, maybe it was all the alcohol that killed the virus, but that was the last night of being sick.
|with my friends in LA: farewell party|
I set off from Shinjuku, stumbling side by side with Yoshi into a train back to Tsurumi. I feel sorry for the businessmen who were sitting next to us, we reeked of liquor and bar-smoke and were talking in excessively loud slurred English. Well, it was my birthday after all. Woke up late in the afternoon, packed up all my gear and had a yakitori dinner at a local dive restaurant called Hikari Genji, probably the best yakitori I had throughout my trip. Then got on a bus from Tokyo station to Kyoto at midnight. (It was 8100 yen... ouch)
After all the gifts and expenses during the first week in Tokyo, I arrived in Kyoto with around 30000 yen. An unbelievably trifle amount for a two month trek across the country, but somehow I thought it would be enough. Well, little did I know, that money wouldn't get me very far at all.
But this isn't a story about not making it... it's a story of faith, and the certainty of miracles. Ultimately, it's a story of gratitude, because the word I love more than any other is "Arigatou."