If I was going to go the South East Asia route to get to Central America, where else could I go in that part of the world and do something interesting and meaningful? Before I started at my current workplace, about eight years ago, I went to Japan with a friend and my brother Paul. My brother is mad on old-style arcade games (in fact I am housing a full sized Japanese arcade machine in my dining room because there’s no space at his house!) and into Studio Ghibli films, and we both enjoyed travelling on the bullet train between Kyoto and Tokyo.
I wondered if I could convince him to meet me in Tokyo, and have an adventure jumping on and off the bullet trains travelling from Tokyo to the bottom of the island of Honshu. Discussions commenced and we worked out a schedule to make the best use of time on a seven day rail pass, and thought we could fit in Kyoto, Osaka and Hiroshima before parting ways – him back to Tokyo and me down to the retreat. Paul needed time to think, and I was happy that there was the beginnings of a plan.
I have been doing yoga on and off for many years now and I remember a yoga teacher I had a while back who used to organise yoga retreats in Japan. He didn’t have any trips on the horizon sadly, so after a bit of searching I found the Shoganji Zen Retreat on the island of Kyushu, near Oita city. The retreat is billed as a Japanese Cultural Homestay, based in a 600 year old Zen Buddhist temple. There are various activities available, such as Japanese cooking lessons, Japanese calligraphy, Zen study, hot spring bathing visits, yoga and you are encouraged to get involved in the community. The temple is surrounded by a bamboo forest and 5mins from the beach, and sounded like the perfect place to calm down and take some time out after the challenging trek in Nepal and the hectic trip on the bullet train.