Just a month ago I was on the other side of the world, exploring the small but thriving country of Japan. I reflect on my time there often, whenever Iâ€™m feeling like I need some grounding it brings me back to my center. Japan was never high on my list of places to visit. I was more interested in Europe, New Zealand, and Southeast Asia. My impression of Japan was essentially Tokyo; I had no idea there was a rural part of the country that would speak to me so deeply.
Myself, five other paddlers, and one photographer packed up all of our paddling gear including boards and set out to paddle some of Japanâ€™s most famous rivers. The rivers were gorgeous â€” with water so clear and blue you can see straight to the bottom. We got what we came for but left with so much more than we could have ever anticipated.
Japanese culture taught us so much about being grateful, respecting nature, and tradition. Our friend Yacu, born and raised in Japan, has a profound understanding of his culture and the many traditions that exist within it. I remember the first temple he took us to, it sat on top of a mountain overlooking the town in which he lived. Locals visit the temple simply to pray and give thanks for the river that runs down from this mountain and provides sustenance for all the villages that exist along itâ€™s banks. He showed us how to cleanse ourselves before entering the temple, a therapeutic process all itâ€™s own, and then walked us through the traditional way to pray to the gods â€” bow, clap three times, bow, etcâ€¦
Iâ€™m not a religious person, but Japan opened my eyes to a religion that spoke louder than any other. It seemed that all the prayers gave everything more life, more power â€”the mountains would speak, the trees would dance, and the rivers would sing. When I think of Japan I think of Life, I think of peace, and I think of contentment. I will always go back.
The most powerful place we visited was Mt. Fuji. My first time paddling at sunrise on lake Motosu in the shadow of the volcano brought tears to my eyes and made me weak in the knees. I will never forget that feeling.
This is one of the many videos I edited from our Japan SUP Tour. You can view our entire journey from start to finish on my website.
To Health and Highwater,