This is the first photo I ever took in Japan, back in October of 2001.
Before I met my husband, Cloyce, I knew very little about Japan. My family had traveled around and lived in Europe when I was little, so I had more of an affinity for Europe than Japan. But when a group trip to Japan was suggested back in 2001, I couldn’t wait.
These were the days before internet hotel booking or travel recommendation sites. We had our arrival night’s lodging booked, but after that were on our own. We had our rail passes and about three weeks to explore. We prevailed on the lovely ladies at the (now defunct) Welcome Inn Center in Tokyo, who helped make our arrangements and suggested places to visit. Having been an art history major, there were some sites I wanted to see, like the Daibutsu in Kamakura and the one in Nara.
I’ll never forget that trip for so many reasons. We left on October 1, 2001, just a couple of weeks after the 9/11 attacks. The 777 we rode to Narita was practically empty, I believe there were only 44 passengers on board. The Japanese people were so kind to us, so happy that we had traveled so soon after the attacks. I remember seeing 9/11 collection jars at convenience store checkouts.
My husband had a Japanese degree and had done two study-abroad exchanges in Japan, so he was our translator and guide. This was Japan back before Romajii was on signs; it was kanji or kana only. And no smartphones to translate for you. For someone (me) who knew no Japanese, it was overwhelmingly foreign. But in a good way. Even though I felt so out of my element, I loved the country and the people. I couldn’t wait to go back.
That’s still how I feel today, almost 16 years later.