Take a Pilgrimage. Difficulty Rating 8 out of 10:
There are many pilgrimages in Japan. It is a country full of mountaintop temples and ancient journeys through nature. But the most famous of all Japanese Pilgrimages is the '88 sacred temples of Shikoku'. Along the edge of Shikoku, Japan's fourth largest island, 88 temples are scattered, each reputed to have been built or connected to a famous Buddhist monk, Kukai. Kukai was a monk who believed, unlike others of his day, that we could achieve enlightenment during our time here on earth. For thousands of years people have taken the pilgrimage searching for a piece of that enlightenment. The temples form a great circle and it is truly a journey with no destination.
One of my short journeys along our beach.
Copyright Jeff Howick 2011
I've taken many journeys for many reasons in my life: for fun, for education, for love and for jobs. But I have never taken a journey for the soul. These days, most people take the journey by bus, stopping at each temple for only a few minutes and completing the journey in a matter of days. My wife and I would love to walk the entire path, like the original pilgrims from ancient times. But it takes about 40 days to take the pilgrimage by foot, and it will be very difficult to find a month and a half to dedicate to this journey. It may take us years before we can do this pilgrimage, but I can't wait to see what I'll discover on the way.
Become Fluent in Japanese. Difficulty Rating 7 out of 10:
I don't know why Japanese calls to me, but it has for a long while now. In college I minored in Japanese. I've continued to study it since then and I speak once a week with a language partner via Skype. Learning any language is difficult, but having a chance to practice it daily makes it easier. I can't wait to live in a place surrounded by people who speak a language that sounds like poetry to me, and I can't wait to be able to speak it back.
Swim with Monkeys. Difficulty Rating 4 out of 10:
One of my earliest memories of Japan is watching the winter Olympics in Nagano. They did a special on the snow monkey who swam in the hot springs during winter, and that has always stayed with me. I've always wanted to visit those springs, soak up their warmth and play with the monkeys.
I'll probably do a lot more photographing than swimming around the monkeys when I get there, but it will be just as much fun. I don't know why certain things inspire us to dream, but visiting these snow monkeys will be a fulfillment of a dream I have long held in my heart.
Japan is full of adventures and journeys I have long dreamed of and planned for, and I could never hope to put them all down in just one blog. I'm sure I'll have plenty more additions to my bucket list that include Japan or Japanese culture. In some ways, waiting to go to Japan is an almost painful ordeal. But at the same time, this period of anticipation and excitement is intoxicating and wonderful. Isn't that half the point of making a bucket list, to taste the excitement and anticipation that you get as you begin a great journey and dream of the future?