My journey home was via Tokyo. It had been raining heavily when I left Sydney, but the temperatures were in the twenties. It was quite a shock to land in Japan eight hours later to find that it was the middle of winter. It was freezing and foggy.
I found a hotel in Narita. It was much more expensive than the kind of place I normally stay, but much less expensive than I'd feared it might be. I went for a walk through the town to some temples, which looked eerie in the green-lit fog.
The next morning it was bright and clear and very cold. My flight was at midday so I didn't have a lot of time to explore Narita. But I did see temples, and beautiful gardens with outdoor bonsai trees. The previous evening I'd walked past a karaoke bar, and some of the streets I walked along were lined with vending machines. Even in my short time, I'd seen some quintessentially Japanese things.
I flew home. Not long after we took off, the plane banked and I found myself looking right into the crater of Mount Fuji, covered in snow and looking very beautiful. We were flying with the sun, and so we took off at midday and landed ten hours later at 3pm. But our flight path took us well into the Arctic Circle, and for most of the flight the sun was just below the horizon and we were in a very long twilight. Far below, all of Siberia was covered in snow. I could see frozen rivers and lakes in the half-light, and it looked really stunning. I started to think about a future trip.