I chose to stay at Suzuki Guesthouse for another week, not necessarily because I was scared to go outside, but because I was trying to decide how to go about the rest of my journey. It’s been nearly 7 months since I left home and I was planning for at least 12. Not wanting this to end so soon, I came up with a few options, none of which were appetizing.
Plan A: move on. Just like the Schengen Area in Europe, Japan has a 90 day rule, which I did not want to overstay. Although the reason sounded pretty just, illegal activity, no matter the motivation, is not something I came here to do. I have to be out before the end of April, so maybe I should just carry on as normal. Places like South Korea are close and the flights cheap as dirt, but the pandemic hit them pretty hard so let’s not do that. The Philippines and Vietnam seem alright, but their borders are closing up pretty quickly. Australian and/or New Zealand are my go to. English speaking, I know I’ll be able to get around easier and though the flights and currency exchange are expensive, it’s the most like home I can find.
Plan B: go home. Canada won’t refuse me entry. Yes, I’d have to self isolate and maybe be under quarantine, but that’s a small price to pay for the safety and comfort of home soil. The issue again is the planes. With no flights going from Osaka (my last destination) directly to Canada, I’d have to go through U.S. customs and I have no idea what would happen. Would they let me through, or keep me under quarantine there? What if I got stuck in the U.S. and somehow couldn’t leave? It’s way closer to home than down under, but the plague is predicted to hit America terribly hard. Planes are also Petri tubes for disease. How many times have you flown home from vacations, just to get sick right after? That thinking also affects Plan A.
Plan C: stay put. Could I possibly find some way to stay in Japan and ride this out? I could extend my travelers visa or get a working one. Problem with working visa is you have to sign up and get accepted before arriving, so that’s a big’ol’bust. The plague will be gone by summer right? Then I can either follow through with Plan A or B accordingly.
This honestly took me a week of back and forth in my brain. In my off time I tried to write, but worry stricken, nothing creative came through my fingers. I ended up with a lot of calls home, chatting to friends and family for hours, or catching up on videos, movies and TV I’d missed.
Knowing there were the mini shrines I still wanted to tour, I ventured out. It was a grey day, with only a little dribble. Dotted throughout the city, I knew it would take some time to get to them all. At the first, I awkwardly stopped. People bowed at the gate, entering and leaving. This was nothing new but I still hadn’t figured out what I was supposed to do. Yes a gentle bow was respectful, but I didn’t want it to come off as rude. Maybe a foreigner acting like a local was insulting? (In hindsight probably not) That being said, not bowing was going to look even worse. It was a half bow at best. Shrine two was closed, with a red sign outside saying something-something-19. Number three was open and the Sakrua tree blooming in the garden was lovely. Four was the same as two.
Between this and the last was a tranquil temple with very few people passing through. A large structure was at the center, a tower on one side and a petite pagoda on the other. Mixed in with the flora, there were a few stone cenotaphs along the way, marking the roads with their vertical lettering. Wandering through, nonchalant and musicless, I cleared my head. At the last shrine, half the trees had not yet awoken from their winter slumber, with the other half very much alive. And yet again, a small crowd gathered around the cherry blossoms.
My final breakfast at the guesthouse was a gift, free of charge for staying so long. Coupled with green tea, the Miso soup was warm and a little salty, with what I can only describe as Asian Rice Krispies in the broth. Filled for my march to my next stop, the couple and their dog bid me farewell at the door, exchanging smiles, bows and waves. I hope they’re doing alright.