With this week of self-inflection imposed on me, I couldn't help but wonder what I'd be doing if I were home right now.
The fresh, snow shed prairie would be in full spring bloom, right about now. The mild (but sometimes erratic) April showers would have subsided, leaving fresh dirt for my knobbies to chop at.
There's something to be said about the air of spring, back home. In a way, the slight breeze across the rolling plains has a cleansing scent to it.
A springtime breeze can wick away any remnants of a brutally cold winter. More than anything, it truly signifies a change of seasons every year.
If there were a few things I missed about home right now, that springtime scent would be one.
For all I know, I'd probably be covered in mud, pacing myself through an intense moto or hare scramble right now. The freshly raked tracks and trails would be prime for a maiden voyage.
Springtime riding is the best of all worlds.
Warm, but not hot. Wet, but not soaked. You get the point. It's hard to beat a temperate, sunny day with some mud on the tires and a cool breeze at your back.
As these thoughts race through my mind during the morning route, I peer out the window and find the DZed politely tucked away in its parking spot.
Like an eager horse pacing in its stable, the bike is itching to hit the busy city pavement again.
If something as inanimate as the DZed could communicate its current plight, it would be one of frustration and pent-up aggression.
Tokyo has treated me so well that I've neglected the bike and its built-in need to be sent. Night rides just haven't been enough to quench its thirst for adventure.
While I don't know what the next destination will be, it's apparent that I'll be putting on hundreds of additional miles on the DZed before we reach the shores of Okinawa.
With my morning necessities tended to, I head over to today's destination, Kanda Myojin Shrine.
This place is near Akihabara, so I'm crossing my fingers for a nearby arcade to have special holiday week hours.
It would be a shame to be in that electronic mecha and not throw a few coins into a classic gaming machine.
One unexpected benefit of being in Tokyo this week is that the subway stations have been noticeably vacant.
If I had to guess, I'd say that the flow of these stations is a fraction of what it is, during a normal week.
Golden Week is a popular vacation time for the locals, so it makes that these daily commutes less crammed.
I eventually pull up to Kanda Myojin and begin to walk about the perimeter of the Shrine.
The Shrine is unmistakable in this neighborhood, as the gigantic Green Torii Gate is a stark contrast in architecture from anything else in this area.
This particular Shrine is one of the oldest in the country, being constructed in 730 AD. Except for a few renovations in recent years, the Shrine has been largely unchanged since its inception.
The biggest distinction about this place is who it celebrates.
It was built to honor two of the seven "Lucky Gods" worshipped here in Japan.
Like in many other cultures, the number 7 is considered to be fortunate here and these gods symbolize wealth and prosperity for all.
Specifically, Kanda Myojin Shrine celebrates the gods Ebisu and Daikokuten, which are the gods of work and agriculture (respectively).
In addition to these gods, Kanda Myojin also celebrates Taira-no-Masakado, who was a former Samurai that famously led a revolt against the Japanese Government.
Unlike other Shrines, Kanda Myojin's proximity to Akihabara gives it a flavor that's not common with its counterparts.
For example, pieces of artwork from popular mangas can be found hung up around the Ema of the Shrine, immersing itself in modern pop culture.
Few landmarks celebrate their past, present, and future like Kanda Myojin does.
After I do the ceremonial hand and mouth washing, I make my way into the main section of the shrine and pay my respects to the deities.
I couldn't help but be taken aback by the number of manga references strung across the main hall.
In some ways, you could say that these manga drawings have a sort of hieroglyphic parallel to this culture.
Regardless of the story behind the drawing, each sheet of Manga is a cultural reflection of what this country has endured and cultivated.
The exaggerated emotions are etched on thin sheets of paper.
Despite all of the advances in technology, these drawings still emanate from a place of old traditions and culture created generations ago.
The sight of the two together left such an impression on me that I set out on finding a Manga Cafe, after leaving the Shrine.
With the majority of gaming places closed for the week (including the one I tried to visit today), I made the pivot to a quiet, secluded place for my afternoon activity.
You know what Manga Cafes are but in layman's terms, they're essentially libraries filled with different Mangas and designated cubes for customers to rent,
mainly to use as a place to read said manga.
Cubes are rented by the hour and depending on the cafe, they may have amenities like a locker/bathroom area for customers to bathe and collect themselves.
So much so, that some people actually stay overnight in their cubes and prefer it over a hotel.
I reserved two hours in a cubicle and began to thumb through the assortment of collected manga.
Everything from action to horror (and some other odd styles) can be found in the aisles of this cafe.
I chose a chapter from a Manga I was familiar with (as its anime adaptation was popular in the US).
The countless pages of action painted a landscape of drama, conflict, excitement, and resolution, all bounded within one chapter.
As someone that grew up watching many of the anime adaptations, it's cool to see the same story foretold in the thin sheets of its source material.
Sure, I've read some of these mangas online through a publishing site,
but there's something about the tangible thumbing through actual pages of these stories that help bring these characters to life.
During my reading, I began to think about all of the work you've done to help me pursue this trip. This was not my first international adventure, and I didn't necessarily need the help.
Despite that, you insisted on giving me the "best possible experience" and crafted an itinerary that was impossible to mess up.
I'm very grateful for your friendship and everything that you've helped me with.
I don't know what else you have planned between now and when I see you in Okinawa, but I trust that you left no stone unturned for me to see.
Being in these cubicles seems to lose the concept of time because my 2 hours are close to being up. I had my nose in these pieces of work, enthralled in the sharp detail of these pages.
The only time I found my head above a manga was to get a sip of tea or to swap one reading out for another. It's easy to see why some people prefer this kind of place to a hotel.
The quaint, padded cubicles insulate the readers from the outside world and provide them with this artificial womb for their designated stay.
With that experience out of the way, I'm off to find dinner. I don't have anything else regarding noteworthy activities today, so I'll tell you about the plan for tomorrow.
The plan is to head to Ueno and check out the golden shrine found in the park.
I don't know much about this particular shrine, so I'm eager to see what the significance of this place is and why it's in the middle of the park.
Tomorrow is also Constitution Day, which is the 2nd holiday to occur during Golden week.
Thanks again and I'll see you soon!