Hiking alone; Nikko, Tochigi (November 2016).
When I lived in France, I did a lot of things alone. I went to restaurants alone, I went to the cinema alone, I traveled alone, I slept in mixed-dorm hostels alone. Perhaps I was a little nervous about doing these things by myself, but I still went outside and did them anyway.
Whereas here in Japan, I’m not as independent as I once was. I have yet to do any of the above alone here in Japan. Part of the reason is because I have a super awesome friend J who shares many, if not all, of my interests and is always down to go on adventures with me (thanks J!). But another reason is that I lack the confidence that I had in France. My French speaking ability is miles ahead of my Japanese speaking ability, and even though English-speaking tourists can glide through Japan pretty easily, I’m wary to rely on it. It’s so much less nerve-wracking (and more fun) to do everything with a friend… especially when said friend can understand 70% more of the Japanese world around you than you yourself can.
I’ve started doing a few little things by myself, though. At the end of last year, I had a few daikyuu days (substitute holidays) that I needed to take before they evaporated.
So for the first, I popped down to Tokyo for the day to explore the Edo-Tokyo Museum and take myself out for lunch (there’s a great burger place near Shinjuku station).
For the second, I went to Nikko, Tochigi to go hiking by myself. For the first time in my year and a half of living in Japan, I messed up the trains and took the wrong line, then had to backtrack my way to Tochigi station to catch the correct train. Embarrassing. But I made it to Nikko, then found a mountain to hike.
I swear I was the only person there. I was on the mountain for two hours and I never saw another soul. It was absolutely silent. Birdsong and sunlight. Which was peaceful, aside from the nagging fear that I was going to be eaten by a bear…
Luckily I lived to see another day. And the view from the top was worth it, even if I was alone.