Tag Archives: Japan

Temple Run

I went for the most A-M-A-Z-I-N-G run this morning in Narita, Japan through Naritasan Shinshoji Temple. Thanks to jetlag I was out by 5:30 am with a bright sun already at a low angle in a clear blue sky. The temple grounds are ~1000 years old and are some of the largest in all of Japan, and as luck would have it – are about a 5-minute jog from my hotel.

The Naritasan Temple at dawn.The Naritasan Shinshoji Temple at dawn.

I was absolutely gob-smacked running through the stunning grounds this morning, which I had virtually to myself thanks to the early hour. The temple is a series of buildings over a huge area, which also houses a monastery.

Someone had already been by to light incense and say a prayer.Someone had already been by to light incense and say a prayer.

A local lady feeding the pigeons in a shaft of early morning sunlight.

A local lady feeding the pigeons in a shaft of early morning sunlight.

As I approached the lower grounds I could hear chanting. I ran up the stone steps to the temple where the sound was coming from, and just as I arrived the low droning chants ended and a procession of monks left the prayer room in purple, green, yellow or black robes.

Monks leaving the temple after their early morning chant and prayer.

Monks leaving the temple after their early morning chant and prayer.

Each man put on a pair of traditional Japanese high platform wooden slippers and in single file they began clacking their way all around the temples and the grounds. I kept running into lines of monks as I continued my run. They started giggling when they saw me again and again.

These must be headstones, but they are HUGE.  The temple grounds are peppered with them.  These must be headstones, but they are HUGE. The temple grounds are peppered with them. 

With an hour and 20 minutes into jogging and exploring the grounds and temples, I finally headed back to the hotel, but I’ll never forget waking up in a new city, seeing a temple spire poking up above the tree tops on a few small wooded hills across the way from my hotel window, and thinking to myself, “Hmm, looks like a good place to run to and check out.” Little did I know that one spire, on the highest temple building, was just the tip of the iceberg as to what was was hidden in those wooded hills.

Hard to know which way to go sometimes….

Hard to know which way to go sometimes….

One of my favorite expedition runs of all times for shizzle. Now on to the next adventure…

Offerings at an alter.

Offerings at an alter.

Dragon water fountain with bamboo dipper for taking a drink.

Dragon water fountain with bamboo dipper for taking a drink.

Steps leading up to the main temple building.  Below this manicured garden was a wood riddled with twisting, earth paths.

Steps leading up to the main temple building. Below this manicured garden was a wood riddled with twisting, earth paths.

 

 

Bering Sea Bound

Tomorrow I board the first of three flights out of Boston that will take me to Otaru, Japan on the west coast of Japan’s northern island of Hokkaido.  From here I’ll begin the first of three voyages to explore the Russian Far East, the Bering Sea and Alaska.

The initial expedition will explore the Sea of Okhotsk including Sakhalin Island, the eastern Siberian Coast, the western coast of the Kamchatka Peninsula, and the Kuril Islands. The ship will end up back in Otaru after 19 days cruising around the Sea of Okhotsk. Along the way, I hope to see smoking volcanoes, remote Russian and indigenous cultures, and wildlife like the massive Steller’s Sea Eagle, Arctic foxes, and sea otters.

The first of three voyages I will undertake circumnavigates the Sea of Okhotsk visiting eastern Siberia, the Kuril Islands and the Kamchatka Peninsula.

The first of three voyages I will undertake circumnavigates the Sea of Okhotsk visiting eastern Siberia, the Kuril Islands and the Kamchatka Peninsula.

The second voyage will take us back up through the Kuril Islands and then outside the Kamchatka Peninsula to begin island hopping across the Bering Sea through the Aleutian island chain. We will visit Attu, the western most point in the United States, Dutch Harbor (well-known to fans of the “Deadliest Catch” TV show), and finally the stunning Katmai National Park. This second voyage ends in Seward, Alaska.

The second of three expeditions crosses the Bering Sea while exploring the Aleutian Islands and the Central Alaskan Coast.

The second of three expeditions crosses the Bering Sea while exploring the Aleutian Islands and the Central Alaskan Coast.

The final two weeks in the North Pacific Ocean will take me even farther up the Alaskan coast, almost all the way to the Arctic Circle, and into the Chukchi Sea.  This expedition should reveal calving glaciers, bears scavenging the shoreline at low tide, and thousands of seabirds. The ship will also call in at Big Diomede Island where Russia and the US are separated by about one mile of open ocean, and by the International Date Line. I’ll literally be able to look into yesterday on Little Diomede Island – one mile to the west and 23 hours behind. But right now, this is making my head hurt to think about…

Voyage #3 heads north up the Alaskan coast and into the Chukchi Sea.  I'll fly home at the end of July from Nome, Alaska.

Voyage #3 heads north up the Alaskan coast and into the Chukchi Sea. I’ll fly home from Nome, Alaska.

Meanwhile, my camera batteries are charged up, memory cards are formatted, and the lenses are cleaned and ready to go. I’m itching to get out into the Zodiacs and look for rivers full of salmon, whales, wolves, ptarmigan, bears, sea lions, puffins, auklets, and albatross.  And unlike Antarctica, where I spent my winter months, these lands are home to both indigenous and modern people who live off the land by herding reindeer, foraging, and fishing for salmon.

I expect to go in with eyes wide open and to learn all I can from the fascinating people and the wild, remote places soon to come.

Join me!