Sometimes the best way to experience a foreign country is to just walk. I headed out the door with a cheerful “ittekimasu!” (the Japanese word used when leaving the house). My iPod was in my pocket, offering a soundtrack to my afternoon, and my camera was slung around my wrist. I wandered through narrow neighborhood lanes. Neat houses, tall and thin, squeezed together in the same way their inhabitants fill the trains. Flowering trees bended their branches overhead. Acorns crushed by passing cars littered the cement beneath my feet. If I crouched down, I could see the green moss hiding in the corners of the stairways, keeping to the cool shadows.
Above, telephone lines criss-crossed my view of a cloudless blue sky. Fifteen minutes and I reached a larger road lined with stores. Cars zoomed past in all their shades of black and white. An occasional red or blue caught my eye. People hurried on their daily errands, carrrying bags of groceries and pushing baby carriages, dodging the bicycles that rolled past.
Down the road, up a hill, I came in sight of a temple. Beautiful old trees draped in perfectly constucted spider webs. In their midst, ancient buildings of worship sat tranquilly at ease. White stone statues guarded the mighty gateway. I walked on, past a junior high school echoing with the yells of its baseball team. The hard-working boys were practicing on a national holiday. Not at all a rare occurence in this country.
Farther on, I came in site of a graveyard. I circled the area, taking in the hapharzard rows of meticulously clean gravestones, smoothly polished and adorned with flowers from loved ones. It was a quiet walk. I eventually turned back home.
As I strolled along narrow little sidewalks, I marveled at the October heat. Two days ago, pouring rain chilled the city, but today summer showed its face for one last time before autumn. It was a mere shadow of the temperatures that weighed down the country in July, but warm nonetheless. The sky, smothered in clouds yesterday, was a spotless dome now. Birds chirped from unknown perches in the shady branches. In the distance, Mt. Fuji’s symmetrical silhouette could be seen. A perfect day for a walk.