Without realizing it at the time, only stopping to take note long after I’d returned, I was on the way to Achi village with no real idea of what to expect.
Another teacher here in Japan, Megan, lives in this village but in truth we barely knew each other at the time and had only briefly met once before, a full 18 months prior. Our contact was sporadic at best however somewhere along the line a pipe-dream of snowboarding and stargazing had begun to take shape. Before I knew it, I was on a 6 hour trek to Achi.
A fair walk, a train across to the mainland, a bullet train, quick stop at a café (I’d had my eye on this place for a long time but can’t honestly remember why), a highway bus and finally a short car journey later, I found myself in front of Megan's (enormous!) house. Despite the worry about not really knowing the first thing about each other, our unfamiliarity’s faded immediately and I couldn’t have asked for a better host – my mum will tell you that this sort of thing is typical of me. Some of my closest friends are those whom I’ve only fleetingly met or sometimes even never met at all. According to my mum, I’m a big fan of wanting to “say hello to everyone” and also “making things difficult for myself”. Perhaps she’s right. I’m still not so sure.
Achi had a fantastic stargazing event which involved projection mapping and laying outside under blankets to stare at the night sky. I’d never seen stars this crisp or bright before, even living in the countryside back in the UK. It’s certainly a far cry from the skies of Takamatsu. A better photographer would have a great picture to show you but I’m afraid I can’t offer much. I could blame the cold temperatures and tiredness but in reflection I had at least two or three camera settings way off what they needed to be in order to get the photo that this sky deserved.
I’d love to go into more detail about this really fun visit with details of the village, onsen and food etc but in truth the best thing to mention is how it was just one of those occasions where everything somehow worked out . Our timing was constantly "ギリギリ" ("just barely") and we had a LOT of luck but I think it's also fair to say that you make your own luck when it comes to traveling. If you wait for things to be perfect then you might never take the plunge. Of course this was also helped by the fact that Megan was so easy to travel with and I think we have a really similar relaxed travel style. Because of that we managed to turn all the tiny setbacks into something worthwhile - for example, missing our planned showing time of the event and instead filling that time with light-painting and photographs with the projection mapping etc. Despite the hectic schedule (literally 5 minutes in an onsen?!) and last minute planning we were both on the same page throughout and made it all work with ease.
So with that being said, let's just say that even if you don’t have a plan fully sketched out or perhaps even the slightest idea of what to expect from your destination, travel always has a way of surprising you. So pack up and take the risk when that next opportunity comes along. It is always worth the journey.