My first weekend back was spent drinking and relaxing, catching up with friends and spending lots of cash on frivolous expenses. Then drinking, and recovering after an evening of gin and DVDs on Sunday.

Anyway, in the spirit of lists, I’ve decided to talk about the photos that adorn this blog to the left, and to list my top few trips in Japan so far. The photos are of…Yakata-yama, Kyoto, Seoul, Miyajima, Ushimado, the Seto-Ohashi Bridge, and Yakata-yama once again. This got me thinking to what my top five trips have been in Japan…

1. Yakata-yama, 31st Sept – 1st Oct 2006. Quite possibly the most beautiful sight I’ve ever seen, although I was fairly drunk at the time so maybe that influenced my appreciation. A great weekend that combined some of the best things in life: amazing natural beauty, new friends, and copious amounts of beer.

2. Seoul and the DMZ, 23rd – 26th November 2006. What was initially a bold and uncertain first trip away on my own somewhere turned into a perfect weekend of sightseeing, new experiences and karaoke. So much fun that I’m looking forward to another step into the unknown with a visit to Taiwan in March (assuming my holiday allocation troubles get cleared up).

3. Philippines, December 2006 – January 2007. Although slightly marred by illness, lying on beaches with drinks and pizza was a great way to spend Xmas and New Years, plus it was good to see a friend I hadn’t seen since Tokyo.

4. Miyajima and Floating Torii Jokes, October 21st 2006. The benchmark by which all day trips away in Japan have been measured by. Fun with friends, good jokes from me and Carrie, and climbing of mountains, which although painful was certainly worth it.

5. Beautiful Kyoto, 4th – 7th November 2006. The jewel in Japan’s crown, Kyoto was packed with so much stuff that I’ll definately have to go back several times before I leave. Kinkaku-ji, to the left, was the most beautiful sight but I also felt a zen-like calm wandering round Gion, the Heian Shrine and Maruyama-koen.

A special mention also has to be given to the Inland Sea. Ushimado, the Seto-Ohashi, Takamatsu and Yashima, and island trips to Shodo-shima (monkeys) and Nao-shima (modern art) all immediately convinced me that I like where I live. Those first few weeks in Japan were the most beautiful I’ve seen, even if they were ridiculously hot and humid. I’m looking forward to the sun and sea again this year. But first, I’m learning to ski! In two weeks I’m going for lessons in Okayama-ken, then hopefully practising when I go up to Hokkaido. Finally I’m going to a ski resort, at Mount Daisen, Tottori-ken, in late February.