[log] Getting Out, Getting Lost
23 November 2023 | 10:34 am

Train line near Kichijoji
Train line near Kichijoji

Winnie and her partner have been making their way through Japan. Starting from Fukuoka and working their way east. It’s been fun seeing her blog entries and photos. In one of her posts, Winnie talks about the stimulation she gets by traveling:

I had this epiphany (or re-epiphany) today on why I am less depressed when I travel. Apart from the obvious dopamine hits because there is novelty, travelling inevitably keeps my brain engaged because there is so much wayfinding, figuring things out, getting lost, decision-making, choosing of potential pathways, etc. At home, my country is so small and comfortable that I am living like a zombie, even if I consciously do not want to. My brain simply switches off because it is familiar with everything, it does not need to think. I seem to thrive in uncertainty even though it makes me very uncomfortable and anxious. I guess there’s different parts of my brain having different responses. - Winnie Lim: hiroshima, and keeping my brain engaged

Candy apples, games, food stalls line the entrance.
Candy apples, games, food stalls line the entrance.

For me, it’s been important to form a routine because it lets me curate my habits. Since I was young, I would get incredibly interested in something and build a routine around it. Then once that routine breaks, it’s like I’ve forgotten it ever existed. Even if that routine went on for months, I struggle to get back to it. When a good one sticks, I want to protect that. There’s an inner conflict of breaking my routines. The safety of the known. I wonder if fear of the past failed routines makes me overvalue routines that are currently sticking. But then there’s a dullness of the known. Reading Winnie’s post inspired me a bit. We had a holiday today. Rather than focus on a bunch of things we need to get done before the end of the year; we gave ourselves the day to explore. Get lost a little bit.

Kumade were being sold at the festival. A good luck charm for the next year.
Kumade were being sold at the festival. A good luck charm for the next year.

S and I rode the train to where we had our first date, and we wandered through random streets picking directions that roughly went towards the next station over. For the first time in a while, I brought my camera. Going out and taking pictures is great in the “engage with your environment” sense. You take time to look for things that catch your eye. Things that you typically ignore in the routine. Lighting, color, buildings, people. Lots of fun.

Long line to pray.
Long line to pray.

Houses in Tokyo have such a wild variety of being uniquely designed, very old, or copy-paste. Our walk today let us enjoy a good variety. Ending with some good curry at an Okinawan themed restaurant and a short break at a cafe. On our way back, we stumbled upon a small festival. It was a good day to get lost.

[log] Yoroshiku
28 October 2023 | 6:01 am

The western corner of Tokyo feels nothing like the concrete sprawl of its city. First time we went was sometime early last year. After several trips, we’re slowly forming a routine. Hike for a bit, get back to Okutama station, have some fish and chips and craft beers while we chat about the mushroom ladies1. For the route that we often hike, the question is now: do we start at the lake or do we end at the lake? This weekend we decided to end at the lake.

S relaxing by the lake after a long hike in Okutama.
S relaxing by the lake after a long hike in Okutama.

Our day starts around 7 as we eat breakfast, make some tea, and pack some snacks. The train ride takes us a few hours. As you get further west you notice the train is full of people ready to get out of the city. Big backpacks, hiking shoes, and bouldering matts wedged between riders on the train. We get there around ten with a ~3 hour hike a head of us. The area is beautiful. Mountains and fresh air. Fall season is starting very late so the area is still incredibly green. We haven’t quite landed in the window for the fall leaves, hoping to see it this year. The trail we take has a long history. Signs along the trail talk about historical aspects of the area. Suspension bridges along the trail have wooden boards that do not inspire confidence. Old houses have stockpiles of firewood for their stoves. An abandoned railway is being reclaimed by nature.

I struggle to fall sleep while in planes or trains, but this trail has been a sleeping pill before. We haven’t done much hiking since spring, we were very aware of how sore our butts were going to be. From time to time, we slow down for a snack or to listen to some bird songs we do not recognize. But hunger began to set in half way through the hike when the protein bars ran out. We began chanting: “fish and chips, hey! fish and chips, ho!2” I also had a question on my mind that I decided to ask S at the lake. You can get tiny peeks of the lake through the trees as you go along the trail. Despite the exhaustion, an excitement still came with the teasing views of the lake.

The lake is a man made reservoir surrounded by mountains. A tourist center sits by the bus stop and the lake. We say hello to Wasapi, the wasabi mascot of Okutama, on our way to the tourist center restroom. We check the arrival times for the bus and we have perfect timing. Right as we walk towards the stop, the bus pulls in. There is nothing like ending a several hour hike and seeing your transport to hot fries and beer — wait, no! I wanted to talk first. Then she asks “Why don’t we sit by the lake and finish our snacks?” Perfect. She did not want to leave just yet either. We snack on some yokan maki, drink the last of our juice, and chat for a bit. Realize we’ve known each other almost exactly five years. Chat about the impending waddling of our sore butts as we get out of bed tomorrow. I look forward to it because it’s with her. I ask her to marry me.


  1. We had just finished taking a break in a clearing on the hiking trail. There was a few old ladies who were also hiking along. S noticed one of them had an open backpack and called out to them. “Oh, we know. We have a bunch of shiitake mushrooms.” They then proceeded to give us shiitake mushrooms the size of my face. They did not let us say no. After debating if we should eat mushroooms from strangers, we cooked them with some butter and soy sauce. ↩︎

  2. We didn’t see a lot of people on this trail this time. ↩︎

  3. She said yes. ↩︎

  4. This is also 5 seconds before the next bus arrived. My mind being absolute mush in the moment, nearly panic about catching the bus or needing to wait an hour to eat some hot fish and chips. ↩︎

[log] Out of the Frying Pan into the Rain
9 September 2023 | 9:53 pm

We finally had a day that wasn’t miserably hot. But that was due to a typhoon. The morning was blasting rain. Shops were closed down. People largely sheltering inside. I am on my way with very wet pants to the dentist. Trying to be tactical with my umbrella usage to not ruin my partners nice umbrella. The rain raged through and calmed down by the time my teeth had been cleaned. Just a sprinkle of rain and a refreshing breeze. I’d expect a typhoon to make it more humid, but not this time. The relief didn’t carry over to the next day. Heat was already back. I can’t wait for the leaves the change.

This year, Many people have been using these neck-ice-rings to cool down while walking around outside. An ice pack that’ll wrap around your neck. You stick it in the freezer and grab it on your way out the door. When it’s very hot, the ring will only keep cold until you get to the station. It does not last very long, but it stalls the heat. One time I packed both of ours and stuck one in a cooler bag. Swapped out for a slightly colder one as I waited for our Banh-Mi.

Bread Report

We found yuzu shokupan (“sliced bread” shaped, with yuzu citrus in it). Like many products in Japan, it’s seasonal. It was soft and delicious. Had it with some whipped butter and honey.

Also found a spiced bread. No idea what’s in it. The restaurant that sells it will set them outside on a chair with a small sign. Absolutely incredible with some coffee.

We come visit this hiking trail when it's not so hot. This coffee car is often there.
We come visit this hiking trail when it's not so hot. This coffee car is often there.

Dentists in Japan are interesting compared to the US. They’ll sometimes do weird scheduling due to insurance. This works out to more smaller sessions. It had been a while since I last visited. I skipped this option and just go for do it all at once and hopefully stall the next visit by a few months1. I think even without insurance it’s not that much more expensive compared to the US. At the very least, they give you options with different costs at multiple points a long the way. Though not a great feeling to need to choose on the spot.

The dentist used a much brighter light and just put a towel over my face. I had a hard time not laughing with the towel. They’d put a suction tube in my mouth that’d make funny noises and I’d giggle. The whole setup was funny to imagine the other perspective.

  1. Though I do have a cavity so I guess I am not reducing my visits by much. ↩︎

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