If I had to make a list of the most beautiful places I've seen in Japan so far, I would definitely place Yanai towards the top.
We drove over mountain roads, under tunnels of bamboo and pink flowers, and overlooking countless rice patties and well tended gardens.
Huge koinoburi (鯉のぶり) - or the famous carp flags of Japan - streamed in the spring breeze, and the air smelled like freshly tilled dirt.
Everything was fresh and green.
Of course, I was a dunce and completely forgot my camera.
But that's okay.
Sometimes, I think the best memories are better captures with our eyes - with our hearts fully immersed in the moment.
So my less-than-amazing iPhone pictures will have to suffice for now.
It was a day to be remembered.
We filled our little trays with the most delicious ichigo I've ever had, ate way too many berries, and explored a local farmer's market...all while spending time with my Nihongin Imouto (my Japanese little sisters).
I'm so thankful for these sweet girls and their adorable family.
They've adopted me, really.
Their mother, Junko, has made it her mission "help me discover Japan".
And, my goodness, has she succeeded.
Their little family has shown me so many magical places already.
I get way too excited when I think of all the places we'll discover during my approaching gap year.
Their kindness and generosity is overwhelming, and I love their little girls to death.
It's a special friendship.
I came home with wildflowers arranged sporadically throughout my hair (courtesy of my imouto), my clothes stained with strawberry juice, and my basket filled with a gift of the best freshly made bamboo-shoot rice... made with local, freshly harvested bamboo shoots from the mountains of Yanai.
It was a day to remember.
No, it is a season to remember.
And I'm so thankful for the magic of it all.