Our family is flying halfway around the world on a trip of a lifetime. We'll be landing in Tokyo on July 6th for a two-week visit to Japan. The city, Kyoto, Japanese Alps, and Mount Fuji are in store. Bullet trains, konbini, jet lag, and heat await. Since we're so close, and since our daughters are so enamored with everything K-Pop(ular culture), we will be stopping for a couple full days in Seoul as well. You will probably never see pictures of our participation in a planned K-Pop dance class. :)
Visiting Japan and Korea have been on our radar ever since Jesse and I arrived at adulthood. Most of my friends who are reading this will know that I was able to travel to Japan, South Korea, and China (Beijing) in college. This was an incredible trip as part of a college symphonic band. While it was very fun, it was, as my friend Derrick said, like traveling in a fish bowl. We were placed into new and unique situations on occasion, but we were also together with friends throughout the experience and we could be mildly uncomfortable together. There was culture shock for sure as our group was largely rural country mice from the Midwest centered on Eastern South Dakota. It was a comfortable culture shock, though, if that makes any sense.
The biggest pain of that trip was that Jesse was unable to take the trip. While she was part of the symphonic band, she had a required class to take over the time we were away. If she skipped it she would be a year behind on her nursing degree, and that just was not an option. This was very hard for her, of course, but also a challenge for me to be away from her for nearly a month and to be frustrated on her behalf that she wasn't having the experience we were having.
Now twenty four years later we are incredibly grateful to be able to visit and re-visit the area along with our daughters. The world, and knowledge of the world, has changed a fair bit since that 1999 trip. There will be fewer surprises traveling in 2023 as the internet has allowed us to read and watch all kinds of information about our destination. The cultural differences will be felt in a different way as we are a group of five instead of eighty.