Japan

A group of us were having the conversation about what makes you LOVE a place, what makes you like a place, how it’s often impossible to pinpoint what gives you that feeling about somewhere etc. I’ve wanted to come to Japan as long as I can remember. I love the art, style, fashion. Although the cherry blossoms in the spring would obviously have been amazing, Autumn is a pretty perfect time of year to see it too. All that said, it kind of falls into the same category as Vietnam for me. Places I was prepared to love, but in fact only like a lot.

Liked:

1) The aforementioned style: immaculate clothes, beautiful stationary/postcards, zen like gardens. Japan is eye candy.

2) The quirky/zany. From manga porn, to the Disney/Hello Kitty culture, to the futuristic/little bit left field.

3) Calm, helpful and unbelievable friendly people. The language is not the barrier everyone thinks. It’s like a giant game of Cranium at times, but a sketch or mime goes a unbelievably long way.

Disliked:

1) Prices. Ouch on the wallet!

2) Getting around. The subways/trains etc make sense in the end, but defy all of your natural instincts a little.

3) 3pm check ins and 10am check outs. Where is my 24 hours man? Plus the emphasis on the importance of the invite. Japan is big on reservations, not so big on rocking up unexpected.

Where I stayed; Kawasw Tokyo Capsule, Backpacker Gion Hostel, Kyoto.

Kyoto, Japan

Lonely Planet; “it is fair to say that one of those cities that everyone should see one in their lives.”

Meh? Really? I mean its ok, nice enough and better than Osaka which I have chosen to bin off altogether.

Maybe it’s because I have alight AFT syndrome (Another f@cking temple) so after a morning of strolling through Chion-in and Maruyama park, im kind of done with the tourist stuff.

What better to do then have a moment of madness and decide to play dress up with a Geisha make-over! Actually, technically it was a Meiko make-over (trainee geishas in waiting.) You pick a nice kimono, get your photo taken. You can even have a little walk around Gion; the old town streets famous for where the last remaining 1000 or so real Geisha still work. If you are lucky you can spot one running to their appointments at dusk. The thought of actually me being seen in public however would be slightly cringe/mortifying, especially when I clock  myself in the mirror! Like I said on FB, I look like the worlds most sinister Geisha!

Not only are the 14 or so layers of clothes slightly claustrophobic, but the make- up and painted lips especially, are really not suited to someone of my words per minute/decibels. Graceful and submissive are not my talents.It was fun for an hour, but I have never been more relieved to scrape the creepy white make up and see my own skin again. I’m laying off the eyeliner for a while. The best make up is definitely a smile.

The other fun to be had in Kyoto was of course, Karaoke. A life’s ambition fulfilled. (The fact that it was in Japan, not just the singing bit.) A group of 2 Geordies, 2 southerners, and I, are not however the most well equipped bunch to operate the Japanese instructions on the state of the art song selector, especially after vast quantities of sake/plum wine. We spend our 90 minutes on a repeated loop of George Michael’s Faith, American Pie, and Johnny Be Good. There is video footage, but we are saving it for our first release later this year.

Hiroshima, Japan

Hiroshima

From fun to sombre. I’m not even going to pretend I was here for the city. I couldn’t not come here. It’s always stuck in my head after A-Level History. Yes i’m a geek.

Hiroshima is infamous for one thing; The dropping of the first nuclear bomb on 6th August 1945. I spent an entire day in the Memorial Peace Park which is built around the epicentre of the blast. The dome in the picture below (*or it will be when I get my laptop working again…) still stands as the impact was centered directly above it. Everything else was flattened to 3k radius. Apparently 30 mins after the impact black rain started to fall across the city. I find this so eerie a fact.  The two really poignant touches to the Peace Park are a cenotaph for the A bomb victims in the centre of the gardens. It holds a flame which the city have pledged will only be extinguished when the world’s last nuclear weapon is destroyed. Pretty powerful stuff. The other is the Children’s Peace Monument – which is obviously tear jerking enough before you even hear this next bit. Sadako Sesaki was aged 6 at the blast. Like many others she became ill with Leukaemia 6 years later. When in hospital she started to fold origami paper cranes as a symbol of hope, but died a few months later. Her classmates all campaigned to finish her goal of folding 1000 paper cranes, which triggered a Nationwide movement across Japan, resulting in thousands of coloured paper birds at the foot of this monument.

Akihabara, Tokyo, Japan

If yesterday was a Saturday the life of a Japanese Girl,  Sunday was one for the boys. Akihabara is dubbed electronic city, but I didn’t bother with all that boy gadget nonsense. I came to check out Don Quyote; 7 floors of migraine-inducing arcade games, with the odd sex shop thrown in. And no, you wouldn’t think amongst all the kids toys and slot machines was the most well placed location for it, but believe me it gets weirder.

First – coninsidence weird. A few years ago in a land called work, I was in Cannes at a party thing – sorry a ‘networking event’. The headline VIP guests were some annoying 48 piece girlband/dance troop that no one had ever heard of, lip syncing like Aqua on acid to pop songs, much to everyone’s bumusment. Well, they are only fricking huge in Japan! Like kind of a massive deal. AKB48 (that’s their name.) Remember it case they turn up on next years X factor. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Second – is just plain weird weird. I already mentioned the maid costumes and the maid cafes, but Akihabara is famous for them. A place called @home in particular. I accidentally walked past on my way down an escalator. No really. And nearly tripped open jawed at the site of some 16-year-old girl in full little red riding get up, serving lunch whilst entertaining full-grown men in business suits with wolf hand puppet. This was at 11am on a Sunday. I’d really like to think this was in some way Halloween related (it’s the 31st) but I suspect it’s all year round.

Shibuya & Harajuki, Tokyo, Japan

“Harajuku girls, you got the wicked style…” Yes, not just those little perfumes or lyrics off of Gwen Stefani, but a real life place too…

Is it right that i’m nearly 29 and have absolute raging fashion envy of every 14 year old girl in this city. Firstly the hair: I’m walking around with wild shakira curls quite possibly avec the remains of some Thai beach left in from last week. Everyone else here has beautiful sleek shiny STRAIGHT locks. Second. The clothes. Chunky knits, knee high socks and wedges, beenies, blouses, c ute vintage dresses. Bitches. I found 5 floors of heaven in a place called Shibuya 109, but had to make myself leave. I went outside to play in the road. Quite literally, at Shibuya crossing – the Times Square of Tokyo, where 4 junctions meet around a grid. 45,000 people people cross every 30 mins, and the busiest Starbucks in the world sits overlooking it.

*When googling the above fact I only went and hit upon this – love it.

One of the most well-known stories concerning Shibuya is the story of Hachikō, a dog who waited on his late master at Shibuya Station every day from 1923 to 1935, eventually becoming a national celebrity for his loyalty. A statue of Hachikō was built adjacent to the station, and the surrounding Hachikō Square is now the most popular meeting point in the area.
– Wikitravel

The fashion got progressively weirder as headed up to Takeshita Dori (a neon cartoon like shopping street that felt like a being inside a dream with lots of Haribo.) Goths – fair enough (although not really), you can find them in Frenchgate centre/Corn Exchange. But this is on another league. Teenage girls dressed as French maids (what is with that fetish. Stop it!) School Uniforms a la Britney Spears (stop that too!) My faves were two girls in bright yellow Pokemon playsuits. No reason.  The whole things made Lady Ga Ga look like she plays it safe.  The girls all seem to congregate around these photobooth arcades that from what I can gather make you look pretty. They are called ‘Miss Bambi’ and transport you to a backdrop of a world a bit like that Nintendo advert for Animal Crossing. I have absolutely no idea whether Tokyo all the wrongest thing I have ever seen or all very innocent. Apparently it’s ‘an outlet’ for Japan’s youth, and everyone goes home to the suburbs and transforms on the train back from their weekend alter egos. Intriguing.

Previous Older Entries

An.an.tas.in : The Anantasin is the name of a shipwreck just of the coast of the Sensi Parasise, Mae Haad Bay, Koh Tao, Thailand. It’s one of my many favorite places.

Lit.tle: Just because it’s cute.

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