Kansai Field Trip: Afterthoughts

I’ve been home from Kansai for just over three days. The jet lag has worn off and the post-travel blues have switched on. It doesn’t help that these past few days in Los Angeles have been gloomy with occasional rain. It’s a bit mind-boggling that Kansai had better weather than us this time of year, but that’s global climate change for you.

Last night I tried on my new yukata. It only took me about 15 minutes with a YouTube video to tie the accompanying obi properly. I’m pretty sure I’ll just wear that to work on Monday as my Halloween costume. I would have picked up a pair of geta but I really can’t see myself using them outside of some rare circumstances and I’m far more in need of some proper street shoes these days. I had to pitch my cyan PF Flyers Center Lo kicks on our last day in Osaka because all our walking around finally blew out the sidewalls on my favorite traveling shoes. Thank goodness my birthday is coming up, eh?

This morning as I drove Chris to work , we passed through Beverly Hills as we usually do and I couldn’t help but feel utterly dispassionate for my home’s most popular tourist spots. Crowds of people were snapping photos at the huge Beverly Hills sign on Santa Monica Boulevard and all I could think about was how crap our city was when it came to places of real cultural significance. The closest thing to Fushimi Inari in SoCal was probably the Self Realization Center, and that’s really a lopsided victory in favor of Inari.

But the crowds still come by the busload to the Beverly Hills sign. To the Venice Boardwalk and its terrible selection of souvenirs and “artists” hawking their wares. To Hollywood Boulevard, where they pile into smaller buses that crawl along Sunset Boulevard and make a mess of traffic. To Universal Studios. To Disneyland. To the Hollywoo sign. And I can’t really wrap my head around why.

I know it’s easy to take all this stuff for granted since I grew up here. My love for Los Angeles focuses on different things: The beach, the food, riding through canyons on my bike, and of course the people I know here. But apart from the natural landscape’s beauty, I can’t help but feel we’ve done precious little to add value here. There’s a depth and richness to places like Kyoto and Strasbourg and Athens that we simply haven’t had the benefit of time to develop in Los Angeles, and yet people still visit here by the millions.

I may never be able to wrap my head around the why. Celebrity culture does so very little for me that all I can do is find it mildly annoying at the best of times and outright rage stroke-inducing when the noise of circling helicopters, honking horns, and excited (read: drunk and unfiltered) visitors reaches its occasional peak on Sunset Boulevard. And though I adore my home, I sometimes wonder if traveling far and away has the unintended effect of making me love it less and less with each adventure. Maybe Los Angeles isn’t the ideal place to call home, but I’d be lying if I said it was easy to imagine living the rest of my life somewhere else.

Six months out of the year, though? Now that’s an offer I’d seriously consider. There’s so much of Japan I want to see, that I worry I may never see. So for now, I’ll try to get Chris to learn Japanese with me and quietly hope for many more opportunities to discover as many points from Kagoshima to Wakkani as I can.

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