What to do in Narita, Japan


naritasan temple, nartia , japan, NRT Recently on my way back from the Philippines I had a layover in Tokyo/Narita (NRT) for about 6 hours or so.  Having been sitting for the past 4 hours from Guam and anticipating the 10.5 hour flight from NRT to DEN the last thing I wanted to do was sit in the airport for 6 hours.  Come to find out, there are some cool things to do that are pretty close to the airport and easy to get to!

Although the airport bears the name of the country’s capital city, Tokyo is about an hour away by train.  That was way too far for me to be comfortable leaving the airport.  Maybe if I knew my way around, but blindly traveling an hour from and back to the airport was not something I was comfortable with.

Fortunately, the other city attributed to this airport is Narita and Narita City is only a 15 minute train ride away.  The train station is on the lower level of the airport too which made it very simple to visit this adorable Japanese town.

I exchanged US$40 into Yen, put my heavier carry-on things in a locker at the airport, bought my train ticket (for US$2.60) and I was off!

It was a beautiful sunny day and it was so nice to breathe some fresh, clean air after being in airports and in planes for the past countless hours…. and in Manila for the past 10 days, let’s be honest, not the cleanest air on the planet!

Narita City, Narita, what to do in Narita, NRT,  Japan
After the super short train ride into Narita City, I stepped out of the station to see the most adorable town!  It resembled a cute European mountain town in a way… except for the Japanese pagoda style architecture, of course.  The narrow street that lead down to the famous Naritasan Temple was lined with cute shops and restaurants.  I stepped into a few shops to look at items from t-shirts translated into English that made no logical sense, to a fancy chopstick shop, but my favorite place was an antique shop with a very antique little woman running it.  I didn’t buy anything, but I did get a photo of her which I think was worth more than any little trinket.

I kept walking down the road and taking my time as I looked at everything and snapped a few selfies here and there.  And then I came upon the unmistakable Naritasan Temple.  With its grand entrance structure and steps upward toward grounds where the main temple was situated.  Surrounding the main temple were various other temples commemorating different deities, Buddhist scriptures, or prominent historical figures.  The grounds were beautiful.

I took my time looking at the smaller temples that were boasting vibrant colors hand painted on their hand carved wooden structures.  The attention to detail was awe-inspiring!

Narita City, Naritasan Temple,  circular bookcase, Narita, Japan, NRT I almost didn’t even go to the main temple as it has a less flashy architecture style than the other smaller temples.  Also, keep in mind I really had no idea what this temple was.  The lady at the information booth told me I could take a train to famous temple and that was basically it.

I did walk up the steps to the main temple, threw some coins into the slatted donation box, said a prayer, and moved on…. I noticed that people were sitting inside the temple and the doors were open.  I get a bit high on being in large religious structures whether it’s a cathedral or a temple or a synagogue.  To me, the energy in these places is infectious and resonates with such frequency that you can’t help but feel it.

I read the sign “No Street Shoes” before stepping in, thank goodness.  I removed my shoes and quietly tip-toed over to an empty space on the floor.  The inside was gorgeous with giant golden lantern-type structures hanging from the ceiling.  There were two cylindrical ones on the side and then a square shaped one in the middle with a sort of alter area below it. Beyond that, on the back wall was the huge shrine to Fudō myō-ō , the”Unmovable Wisdom King.”

I wasn’t sitting on the floor for 2 minutes when I heard a gong just outside the doors of the temple.  Then a line of about 10 monks came out in brightly colored robes and lined up behind the alter area.  Then, the Shingon priest (learned that later too) came out and sat right at the offering area.  Other monks brought out certain props that were used in the ceremony.  I couldn’t believe how perfect my timing was to be here right as the service was starting!  I later learned this is called the Goma (Homa) Ritual.

One monk read some prayers and the rest started chanting while the Shingon priest started a fire on the alter and then all of a sudden I jumped as another monk struck the huge drum at the side of the room startling me and a few other unsuspecting first-timers.  At the alter in the fire they burned special wooden goma sticks.  Only the Shingon priests who have been instructed in the secret rituals can perform this rite.  The fire of the goma rite symbolizes the wisdom of Fudō myō-ō, and the wooden goma sticks represent the afflictions of human beings.  By burning the goma sticks which have been inscribed with the human afflictions in the fire of Fudō myō-ō’s wisdom, the officiating priest prays with the devotees that their afflictions might be removed.

Naritasan Temple grounds, Natita City, Narita, Japan, what to do in Narita, NRT
The ceremony was in full swing and at one point people who were seated closer to the action started getting up and handing their personal handbags to monks on either side of the room.  The monks would bring them to the fire and hold them over it as a blessing.  I considered jumping up with mine, but I already stuck out as the only western whitey in the room and I wasn’t sure if that would have been in poor taste, so I just continued to watch.

After the blessing of the bags, they made some offering up to the shrine itself, continued with a beautiful chant, and then the ceremony came to an end after about 20 minutes.  What a beautiful experience!!

I put my shoes back on once outside and started hoofing it back up the hill toward the train station.

Noodles in Narita, Narita City, Japan, Japanese food
I wanted to get some Japanese noodles before I left so I popped into a restaurant, sat down and asked for noodles.  They didn’t have them so I moved on.  I stepped into another restaurant and they only served unagi, which is amazing, but I wasn’t in an unagi mood, so again I kept walking.  I finally found Noddle Shop!  It was right before the train station and had exactly what I wanted.  I ordered some pot stickers and a veggie noodle bowl.  I only ate a few hot bites before I had to get the rest packed up to go so I could catch the train back to the airport in time to get my stuff from the lockers and get through security again.

I was right on time and able to finish my delicious meal at the airport with a cold, bubbly beer!  The perfect treat before boarding the 787 Dreamliner to Denver!!

Life is a Trip!




Lionfish in the Caribbean

Lionfish, Cayman Islands, Caribbean, Life is a Trip

Hey there!

Remember me mentioning the lionfish in my other post here?  Well, I thought I’d elaborate on that a bit…

See, it’s quite interesting the situation of the lionfish in the Caribbean.  They are native to the South Pacific waters and, no matter how beautiful, they are an invasive species here.  Lionfish have very ornamental venomous spines that resemble the mane of a lion.  They eat almost any fish, but the problem is that they are attacking the fish who take care of the reefs like the Parrot Fish which eat the algae from the coral and are responsible for creating the sand on most of the beaches in the Caribbean.  The majority of scientists agree that lionfish started proliferating in the Caribbean waters from the exotic fish market in Southeast Florida.  Someone dumps their saltwater tank into the ocean and bingo, Caribbean meet lionfish.  There is plenty of great information on the web about the Lionfish in the Atlantic and Caribbean, but this is a good place to start learning about Lionfish facts and hunting Lionfish.

To give you an idea about how the populations have grown over the years, check out the video at the bottom of this post that displays the population growth from 1985 to 2013.  Even a 2 year old video can give you an astounding idea of how the lionfish population is growing increasingly larger each year.

There have been some ideas about creating a lionfish-only trap, without capturing other types of fish, but that’s difficult.  There has been an idea of trying to introduce a natural predator such as the grouper, however, it seems the grouper just follow the divers around and wait for them to kill the lionfish before trying to eat them… and grouper are huge so it’s a bit worrisome to have a bunch of grouper following divers.

So what does that mean for people living in the Caribbean?  In the Cayman Islands anyway, it means we have a year round open season for lionfish hunting.  Divers go out with a container and a spear called a Hawaiian Sling to hunt the lionfish that are destroying the reefs here.  As like any other hunting there are licensing and regulations involved here in the Cayman Islands.  The community here takes lionfish hunting very seriously and we are one of the leaders in lionfish population control in the Caribbean.  Even the local dive shops contribute their resources to the cause by offering monthly lionfish culls to licensed locals with spears.

It’s interesting how they do the culls too.  If you are on a dive boat for a cull you have a buddy (duh), the boat will motor over to the pre-selected area they are going to cull and drop off 2 divers every 30 meters or so to dive down and hunt.  These culls will pull in pounds and pounds of lionfish and then sell it to the local restaurants.  And lionfish tastes delicious!!

Local divers who go out on their own and hunt lionfish can sell their catch to local restaurants too.  This makes for good beer money!

-Life is a Trip

The Only “Yank” At The Table

This post was originally started in August 2013.  I found it in my drafts today and decided to finish and post it.  Enjoy!


grand cayman, life is a trip

Grand Cayman is quite the magical little island…

I don’t know how else to really explain it. Things happen here and that’s all I know.
When I came here last year around September is when I met most of the people I still know now. It was amazing to me that I was meeting so many people from so many different cultures around the world. When it was happening I was just awestruck that I was in the presence of so many people who were impressively similar to me in their love of life and adventure I couldn’t really put my finger on it. I’m pretty sure that was literally caught with my jaw down a few times.

When I first met “everybody” I was invited to “Gavin’s Irish Stew” dinner at his house. It was an intimate setting with 15 of his closest friends. I was a tagalong at the time, but I think I knew maybe 2 other people who were coming.  I arrived with one of my friends, I met the few who were already there and then greeted the ones who followed in attendance. This is when the awe began… as each guest arrived I began to notice that everyone was from different countries of the world.. This was one of the first times of many to follow where I was the only “yank” in the equation, and you know what, I’m totally fine with that… I invite it actually.

I watched as folks joined the party from South Africa, England, Ireland, Scotland, Mexico, Honduras, Trinidad, Canada, Kenya, the US, and Wales. It was amazing… in the sense that once I realized it I didn’t have words and I kinda just sat back and took it all in. It was my element. This was the reality I like.  I may be the “yank” in the sense that I was born in the United States, but I consider myself a citizen of the world and these were my people.

When I returned to Denver after that trip I started to feel like I had more friends in Cayman than I had in the city where I lived.  I just instantly clicked with all of those people and it was so easy to get along and be friends.  I couldn’t figure it out for the longest time, but then it hit me!  In order to leave your comfort zone, move to a totally different country, in most cases not knowing anyone, and integrate well you’ve gotta have an outgoing personality or you’re not gonna make it.  And also in a situation like that where everyone is from somewhere else you start out with already having something in common, you’re not from there.  That was it!  With a passion for travel, culture, and people I was right at home.

As life would have it, since then some have moved on and left the island and others have arrived.  I am one of the arrivals.  A few months after that trip to Cayman in September, I returned again to visit my new friends.  It was on that trip that I met my best friend!  He recently became my husband, and now there are 2 Yanks at the table.