[Editor’s Note: It has been three years since we visited Koyasan. This is an unusually long delay, even by my standards. This online journal would not be complete without this story, which stands out in my mind as the most memorable experience of all of our travels. I might not get to the rest of our trip, but I can rest easy now that I have shared this special part.]
Our next destination in Japan was a special one. Kat had done her research and learned about Mt. Koya, a mountain range just south of Osaka that is host to over a hundred temples. It’s also the centre of the Shingon sect of Buddhism, so it’s a pretty big deal.
It has been a while since my last update – and for good reason! The last year has been quite busy, and has gotten in the way of my already-irregular blogging habits.
Most of the last year has involved work, which is to be expected. If you’re reading these words, you likely already know that I graduated from law school last year, and thereafter began a year-long process called “articling” (or, because this is a custom with British origins and must therefore be referred to with several slightly-different terms, “articles”). It’s basically a one-year apprenticeship at a law firm, interspersed with coursework and the Bar exams. I took the exams right away, so they’re now a distant and mildly unpleasant memory.
On our second full day in Japan, we put our JR passes to good use and took a day trip to Hiroshima. Now, the most common question that I get about Hiroshima is “how do you say ‘Hiroshima’?” It may surprise you to find out that one does not need to actually visit Hiroshima to answer this question – there are resources one can consult. Still, in case you’re curious, it is roughly pronounced “Hee-roe-shee-mah” (not “Heer-aw-shim-ah”).
Now that that’s out of the way, let’s talk about what we did that day.
I have a confession to make: This post does not begin in Osaka. It begins in Tokyo. If that concerns you, do not fret; I will get to Osaka soon enough.
We flew in to Tokyo’s Haneda International Airport on an evening flight via Beijing. Haneda was more-or-less like every other airport that we’ve passed through these last two months. The biggest difference was that there was less English than we were had encountered in Chinese airports, which was a little surprising. Oh, and also the airport bathrooms came with educational diagrams and required a technical degree to operate.
After our whirlwind weekend in Singapore, we decided to take it easy with a trip to Kowloon. Like Lantau, Kowloon is part of the Special Administrative Region of Hong Kong, but is not on Hong Kong island. Kowloon is actually on the mainland, just north of Hong Kong island and right across the border from the city of Shenzhen.
We took the MTR to the ferry docks, which entailed a quick stop at the International Finance Center (or “IFC” to the locals). IFC is Hong Kong’s premier luxury brands destination, which normally is not the sort of tagline that is likely to draw me in. One of the luxury brands that they play host to, however, is Apple. The store there is brand-new, and I had to drop by for some repairs on my Mac.
We spent one of our generous four-day weekends in Singapore. Singapore is, for me, a hard city to convey through words and photos. It’s beautiful and modern and clean and organized and just generally impressive, but I feel like that only captures little pieces of the experience that is Singapore.
This week we mostly kicked back and relaxed in Hong Kong itself. Aside from generally getting to know our neighborhood, Amelia and I went to Lantau Island with some friends from school. Kat was in Malaysia for the weekend, so she was stuck in Kuala Lumpur with adorable monkeys and elephants (and Patrick, another friend from school) instead of hanging out with us. She won’t make that mistake again, I’m sure.
Lantau Island is like the Buddhist Rio de Janeiro, insofar as it has a gigantic statue of Buddha. Being as I know almost nothing else about Rio de Janeiro (aside from being reasonably certain that it is not in Hong Kong), I’m afraid I won’t be able to expand on that analogy for you. Instead of telling you how Lantau island is like or unlike Rio de Janeiro, from this point on I will just have to tell you what Lantau Island is like and let you take it from there.