30.07.2006 30 °C
We were now on the final stages of our round the world adventure and for the first time we now faced real cultural differences. We flew from Cairns, Australia and landed late evening in Tokyo, Japan. It didn’t feel like anything really knew though becuase we had become seasoned and now took things for granted. It was nice to be challenged again but by now we could probably hitch a lift in Mars and not feel out of depth. So it was never a problem getting to our hotel from the airport by train at gone midnight reading a train map printed off the internet in Japanese and then walking half a mile through the streets of Tokyo to find the hotel tucked away in the darkness.
It gave a good taste of what Tokyo is like though, with the bustle, the neon lights and large outdoor tv screens for advertising, high rise buildings everywhere - the future. Or is it? In someways it looks like the future but what the future looked like back in 1982.
The Tokyo experience was quite cool with good shopping available for midgets. Trying clothes and trainers were a no no - nothing in size XXXXXXXXXL that I needed. It was joyful place to be. We took a look at the old town as well which was cooll but looked a bit out of place. There’s no place for history here.
But it was here, on the secind night that something major happenned that would change our lives. Not that we’d knew at the time but the effect was devasting. In one way it was the best thing that could ever happen. But it was also a major fuck up.
After a few nights we headed to Kyoto, the main tourist place in Japan, om the famous ‘bullet train’. Fuck it was fast. We travelled the length of the UK in just over two hours. What struck me though was the endless urbanisation and industrialisation of the country. You could see that there maybe some nice countryside to be viewd from the window of the train if it wasn’t for the infinite urban sprawl that went on for 400 miles. In a way it was slughtly upsetting.
Kyoto was nice enough place - full of history - full of temples and shrines . We did the best we could to visit them all but except for a handful of more larger complexes it was quite monotonous and the architecture was typical but never astounding. It was good walking around some of the old town with its narrow streets, the infamous geisha girls scampering to the next appointment. We hired bikes out and done it Nip-style. And then we moved on to a little pretty (by Japanese standards) town up in the Japanese Alps called Takayama. This was a minute version of the old town of Kyoto, very historic, untouched in some parts - quaint. We stayed in a minshuku, a typical Japanese Inn, all rice paper walls, dressing gowns, hot spring, slippers, futons and a hearty Jap breakfast. Otherwise we fed ourselves on cheap miso noodles, sake and beer from a street vending machine. Anything to get by on because eating was such a nightmare. Restaurants looked closed (you had to knock on doors, used a different alphabet let alone language and you didn’t know what you were getting - so we relied on pointing at pictures at the cheap places or plastic replicas of what you were getting which appeared in the front window).
There was also a bit of a festival on while we there which kept us entertained for hal an hour. Then we got the bus back to Tokyo for a couple more nights before headed to our next adventure. On both the train and bus journeys we hoped to see Mount Fuji but it was so cloudy we only caught sight of its navel. But at least on the bus journey we saw a bit (and only a bit of pleasant landscape).
Back in Tokyo, we stayed nearer the old town in a ryoken (much the same as a minshuku) and tried to catch the largest firework display in Japan . We were late and missed most of it but I can’t expect it to be that great an experience. For the locals though it was better than shitting in your worst enemies face. The excited oohs, aaahs and screams at each firework that even Kettering Rugby club could put to shame was a little over exuberant to say the least. But we loved Japan. Such a place of contrasts and contradictions. Very, very cool. Where you saw the next Toni & Guy broncage and typical Japanese styles and warped Westernisation. Pretty little dolls innocently gigling away with posing males. Hospitality without losing ones sense of theirselves. It was a nothing of a place but oh so great. It was the only place place we really got a good and lasting souvenir from. But it wern’t that different at the same time. It weren’t that difficult. For up their own are Yanks who try to make subtle French type films with an imperialistic and ignorant views like Copollas who make “Lost in Translation” it might be. But the only thing lost in translation for us was some food which weren’t noodles or rice.