My entire life I have always been so happy and comfortable living in Southern California. Everything about it: the community, the geography, the beach, the valley, the food, and the comfort... it is just part of who I am. Above anything, I have always said that I'm in love with Southern California's weather. The weather never changed and that's how I liked it (especially because I'm a bit of a wimp when it comes to the cold). I'd see my relocated friends post pictures about the seasons and I'd simply laugh to myself. I had only ever seen seasons in pictures and I used to think, "wow that sucks for them." In my head, I was experiencing seasons through pictures just as nicely, only I was in a tolerable temperature. I thought everyone was only acting like they loved season change. In my world, I was the one who had it better, right? Well, I only just found out recently that I was wrong. DEAD WRONG. I'm sure plenty of people may want to rub it in my face and say "I told you so" when I say this, but after experiencing my first autumn, I love seasons.
And maybe I'll think twice about saying that when winter rolls around, but for now, I'm in love.
When I first started to notice the leaves changing colors on my bike ride to work, I was definitely caught off guard. Is this really what's supposed to happen? Although it was starting to get a bit more chilly, the trees that hugged the sidewalk were painted with warm colors and they ultimately warmed my heart as well. Every morning was an adventure when I got to take in my surroundings. Every day I have had the chance to experience what mother nature has been crafting around me.
Although it was all fine and dandy, I first experienced the true beauty of Autumn when I went on my day trip to Nikko.
We had been planning this trip for months! We worked around the craziness of our schedules and had the ideal day to explore the beautiful city of Nikko. Once everything was set, we simply had to sit and wait, hoping that the weather would be nice and no unexpected bumps in the road would arise.
When the day finally came, everything was perfect. The sky was clear, the air was crisp, and of course we were able to board all the correct trains (which is typically the real challenge). We got to Nikko in one piece and our first stop was the red bridge that essentially epitomizes Nikko.
To travel up to the bridge, we decided to use our legs as our mode of transportation. By walking, we hoped to take in all of the scenery we could. It took about 25 minutes to trudge up the shallow slope, but we finally made it.
"There it is!" I thought to myself with wide eyes. My heart was racing as we approached the breathtaking scene. I just tried to take it in as much as I possibly could. The most elegant red bridge stood strong and sturdy while the roaring river raced underneath. The water fiercely tumbled down, splashing the neighboring rocks; there was something about it that was both powerful, yet graceful. The whole scene was swallowed by the crisp autumn foliage. It caressed the sides of the fiery bridge in a way that was astounding, but not overpowering. The leaves and the structure complemented each other in a way that was so magnificent. It was surely a sight that my eyes had a difficult time veering away from.
Is this what autumn is supposed to be like? This first stop had built up my expectations for the day. At this point, I could not wait to see what the rest of this little city had in store for us.
I definitely underestimated the size of Nikko. Looking at the city map, I was astounded to see all the different places we could possibly go to. Although Nikko is pretty famous for the Tosho-gu Shrine, we all sort of decided to let nature take the priority on our adventure. We were really anxious to see the autumn foliage and there was such an abundance of lakes and waterfalls to choose from. It seemed as though this was the obvious path to take since we live in a city with more pavement than trees.
After a pretty lengthy bus ride, we arrived at the stop that led us to Kegon Falls! We had so many things we wanted to see, but time was short and we had to narrow down our list pretty substantially. We went with this particular waterfall due to its great local surroundings and great reviews. It is neighbored by a dreamy lake and is in the midst of a sweet peaceful town that sells some pretty tasty cheesecake.
We hopped off the bus with some pep in our step, and made our way past the signs that directed us to the glorious waterfall that awaited us.
As we continued down the path, we could start to hear the raging water thrashing on the rocks. We were eventually close enough to peer off a gated cliff and had the honor of standing before such majestic beauty. It was the first real waterfall that I have ever seen in full force. I saw a few in California, but they were all pretty dried up from the drought, and I usually left feeling pretty let down. With no prior waterfall experience, I was definitely taken back by the beauty. Who knew a sight like this was even possible?
The view from up high was pretty spectacular, but we were all eager to see it a bit more close up. We paid for the elevator service that would take us down to the base of the falls and it was only about 500 yen. We spent what felt like hours down there. We were caught up absorbing the cool, moist air, capturing nature's beauty, and getting shoved around by some elderly friends who just really wanted to get a good picture with their flip phones.
As we were leaving the falls, it felt as though we had barely done anything. We noticed the sun start to hide behind the mountainous terrain and that was the moment we knew that it was about time for us to head back. Things would be closing shortly after sunset. We approached the bus stop and noticed that we still had another 30 minutes to wait. With this in mind, we took this opportunity to see the Lake that was right across the street!
We rushed on over as quickly as our little legs could carry us. We were aware that we had a limited time but we knew the pros that came with the view would outweigh the cons of the inconvenience. When I started to see the glimmering water in the distance, my heart was leaping out of my chest. We finally got close enough, and I knew that our little detour definitely had value. The massive body of water that laid before us was reflecting the setting sun so beautifully. Jewels were twinkling so gently in the distance, and my heart had not felt so full in quite a while.
Times like these remind me of why I love seeing the sun set. When the sun decides to play hide n' seek behind the horizon line, it reminds me of how important it is to be thankful. Astounding views encourage me to feel appreciative for the world, appreciative for my own life and that of my loved ones, and appreciative for the opportunities that have presented themselves to me. Seeing this sunset in particular was even more special because it gave me the opportunity to reflect on such a beautiful day I spent with some very special people. As my time in Japan is nearing its end, days like this make me warm with happiness in spite of the freezing temperatures. A chance like this only happens once in a life time, and it's these kinds of adventures that open my eyes to new perspectives.
I never thought I'd like seasons. I always told myself and others that I'm happier in Southern California where the weather is just how I like it. Well new perspectives have been introduced to me and now I guess I sort of like seasons. Even as winter approaches and the likelihood of turning into a popsicle increases, I don't think my appreciation for weather change will waver. Who knows, maybe next year I'll even have to go out of my way to find a true autumn outside of Southern California.