...where distraction is the main attraction.

Monday, November 9, 2020

I miss Japan

From a year's distance, I can still feel the thrill of the night I started to plan my third trip to Japan. Though my original trip in 2014 was triggered by whisky inspiration, the more time I've spent in Japan the more it becomes about everything that isn't whisky. Each moment, each stop, becomes more intense, more personal than the previous. From a half-finished basement in Ohio, I longed to visit the tea fields in Uji during the harvest, drift through the Inland Sea, linger in every Shinto shrine and find quiet in Hiroshima in April 2020. For three months, every non-blog moment I could steal for myself went into aligning this experience. Two weeks of PTO was saved. I increased my cardio routine, as I prepared for the 100+ miles I'd walk. I even scheduled when I'd start growing my lumberjack beard to top the one I'd fashioned for my second excursion, three years earlier.

January 2020 brought the news of a new virus that had hit Wuhan, China. My wife's Asian business travel was cancelled. But my trip planning continued cautiously and hopefully. I had to go to Japan, because what else would fill that space?

Then people started dying. Then the virus came to America. Then I cancelled my plans.

I won't get into how wrong things have gone in my personal life in the months that followed because in light of the tens of millions of people who have contracted Covid-19, and the millions who have (or will) perish from it, my problems are small. My struggles will continue into 2021 because nothing stops after December 31st, other than writing a '0' in the fourth digit of the year. And I won't venture out to Japan in April 2021, firstly because the virus won't have vanished by then, and secondly there are things to tend to here.

2022 may bring better days, and whenever I make it back to Japan I will still peek into whisky bars. Maybe all the dusty bottles on those methodically lined shelves won't be emptied. And perhaps Suntory and Nikka will have some decent single malt by then. But there are other paths leading to other places, and they're all mysteries, and my heart is there.