The air is brisk in Fukuyama. The leaves are falling and the mornings are frosty. This weekend, I used my heating unit for the first time since last winter. No matter where I am living, time moves faster in fall. The colors are richer and moods are happier. Every spare moment is spent outside. Every weekend is spent wandering—wandering around the neighborhood or wandering through the new and unexplored.
Therefore, with the lack of central heating in Japan, the first signs of winter can be intimidating–seeing your breath in the morning, sprinting from your bed to the shower, noticing the first frost in the fields and even drinking red cups from Starbucks. However, with said red cup, winter does give one the opportunity to relax. The cool weather and my down comforter have encouraged me to coop up, curl up and catch up. Coincidentally, “up” is exactly where I have been.
Or, where I was. A long while ago, in the early months of fall, I took a weekend trip to Tottori Prefecture. Tottori may be the least populated prefecture in Japan, but it is also the only prefecture where people can
fly paraglide off of sky-high sand dunes. The Tottori sand dunes, or “sakyu” in Japanese, are strange. One moment you’re looking at a forest, and the next you’re in a new world abounding with sand. They are similar to those in Kitty Hawk, N.C., but, either they are bigger, or I simply saw them from a more impressive angle.
We spent the day with three chilled paragliding professionals. They showed us how to operate all the 80s-colored gadgets and directed us while in flight. Although each flight was only about 30 seconds, being above the dunes and overlooking the Sea of Japan made every short second well worth it. After landing and looking up to where we started, the dunes seemed even larger. Fortunately, the prospect of paragliding again gave us the motivation to hike back to the top.
After paragliding we ate pear ice cream and drank pear cocktails. Pears are famous in Tottori, and in true Japanese fashion, there are countless desserts and snacks made from them. We also visited the sand museum, which had been featuring a British-inspired exhibition since the start of the Olympics. There were sculptures of all things London—Parliament, Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, Isaac Newton and Queen Elizabeth. It was a stroll down a sand-paved memory lane to the semester I spent in London. Or, as all of my British girlfriends put it—“It was well-good”—as was the entire weekend.