Six years. It’s been almost six years since I moved to Tokyo (and even longer since I moved to Japan). They say time flies when you’re having fun, and they would be right. In Japan, time seems to move so rapidly that it’s like you’re constantly on a treadmill watching the world whizz by. Tokyo in particular is a fast-paced city. People walk quickly everywhere they go. They crush into packed trains because they know the next one – even though it’s only four minutes away – will be just as full. They squeeze into a grimy restaurant after work, slurp down a bowl of ramen and continue on their way. Living in Japan, there are endless things to do. And because the seasons are so distinct, there are many places worth seeing at different times of the year. For people like me who aren’t bound by work or family commitments, it’s an exciting and addictive lifestyle.
Blog Posts of 2018
This year I made it a goal to get into a regular routine of posting once a week. Having that goal definitely pushed me, especially during times when I was travelling, busy with work or feeling unmotivated. But amazingly, for the most part, I was able to achieve it!
I finally got round to creating a sort of ‘Tokyo Guide‘ which I made to give people planning a trip to Tokyo a few ideas. I’ve had people email me to say how helpful it was for them or to ask for more travel advice. I love when people reach out – it honestly makes me so happy. I also started a new series about one of my favourite things about Japan: food! The Delicious Japanese Dishes series has five parts so far: Tempura, Takoyaki, Kakigori, Monjayaki and Tonkatsu. It’s been so fun ‘researching’ (read: eating) for these, but also genuinely interesting to find out the history of these dishes. Who knew Tempura was brought from Portugal?!
My favourite post this year was Nagoya Castle: My First Spring in Japan. This was a look back to 2011 and my first encounter with the precious, fleeting cherry blossoms. It kind of felt like I had penned a Chapter 2 or Part 2 to my earthquake experience – even though these two stories were posted four years apart, the actual events were only separated by a few weeks. The sakura were a symbol of hope and new beginnings, and this post will be a permanent reminder of that.
The most popular posts among readers were:
1. Spring Day Trips from Tokyo
2. Five Days in Sakura Paradise
3. Autumn Hiking in Western Tokyo
4. Spring Hiking at South Takao
5. Nagoya Castle: My First Spring in Japan
This year was also a significant year of change. At the end of the Japanese school year in March, I decided not to renew my contract teaching full-time at a high school. I’d been chewing on the idea for a while, and although my five years there were amazing, I could no longer ignore the strong urge to give school life a break and challenge myself in new ways. So, I took a leap of faith and started a new life working freelance. I love teaching so I continued doing that privately, but my main goal was to focus on travel writing.
The biggest gig I had was an incredible opportunity to work for the Japan Tourism Agency. I was flown up to Hokkaido a couple of times to gather information about two national parks. I had to talk to local tourism staff, scientists and experts and translate (a lot of) documents from Japanese to English. My writing will be published on signboards, in brochures and on tourism websites. It was one of the most challenging projects I’ve ever been involved with, but I got so much out of it! I got to visit places I probably would never have been to, I learned so much about the natural environment like the history of the volcanoes there and the different migrating wildlife, I met so many inspiring people, my Japanese skills were put to the test and improved a lot, and I developed an appreciation of national parks in general. I hope more projects like this will come my way in the future!
One of my New Year’s resolutions this year was to get published in print. As a writer, there’s something special about seeing your words and name printed permanently on paper. I started writing for a Japan-based travel website called Tokyo Weekender at the beginning of the year. I love working with them and was ecstatic with their reply when I asked if they would consider publishing one of my articles in their monthly magazine. I raced to the magazine stands when the November issue came out and grabbed a few copies for friends and family back home. It was definitely one of the happiest moments of the year.
My new work style meant for the first time in over 7 years I was able to travel at times other than school holidays! After I finished up at school, it didn’t take long before I was on a plane bound for Europe. I revisited my beloved Paris then travelled around France: east to Strasbourg, Colmar, Riquewihr and Eguisheim, then south to Gordes, Roussillon, Lourmarin, Aix-en-Provence, and Nice. A day at Monaco before continuing around to Italy: Cinque Terre, Pisa, Florence, Siena, Rome and the Vatican. I think I gained a few kilos from all the food I ate. But seriously, I love both the French and Italian languages, plus the history and the beautiful sights… I’m sure anyone who’s been to any of these places shares my enthusiasm for this part of the world. Bellissimo!
In October, I was able to experience spring again… this time in Australia! I visited family in Brisbane and Cairns. Although everyone in my immediate family lives in different cities around Australia I was so grateful to be able to spend time with all of them. I also reconnected with some relatives I hadn’t seen in years and met a brand new, extremely gorgeous, extremely tiny family member. <3
Previous Yearly Reviews
2017: All of my favourite places, food spots and experiences of the year.
2016: A look back on my best memories of the year, listed from A to Z.
2015: Lots of fun experiences shaped this year into being a very ‘colourful’ 12 months.
2014: A year of exploring lots of incredible and remote regions of Japan.
Thank you for your support in 2018. Happy New Year!