Tuesday, 29 December 2009

day #0 in the UK and Germany and day #1 in Japan

The observant among you may have noticed that the location in my profile has changed from "Toronto, Canada" to "Tokyo, Japan". The especially observant among you may have noticed that this change is, in fact, two weeks late (the Japan part at least).

I'm currently coming out of a prolonged period of what I like to think of (rather smugly) as writer's block. (Being a writer 'n all!). All the drafts, scraps and snippets of things that happened in Canada that are worth writing about, probably worth reading about, but too much effort to assemble into comprehendable prose at the moment are saved (both here and in my mind), so maybe one day you'll have the pleasure of reading them.

For now, however, I'll begin writing about the wondrous experience that I am currently... experiencing...

A good friend of mine was lucky enough to come across two free plane tickets to anywhere in the world. I won't go into details because frankly it's none of your business (I jest!), but will instead tell you that he decided on Japan as the location, and me as traveler #2. (I am immensely grateful for this, as I have been interested in visiting Japan for a long time now).

So now, after much planning, deliberating, plotting, scheming, arranging, brainstorming, scheming, devising, formulating, outlining and organizing... We are both in Japan.

This post (as with so many of mine recently) is backdated: it details events that took place on the 27th and 28th of December last year, although I am writing it on January 10th of this year. Or next year if I get into character, I guess. Backdated posts have pros and cons: in terms of pros I can post whenever the hell I want and it will still fit neatly into my post history, and I have a full memory (aided by written notes) of the day's events to work from rather than an "in progress" post that would be produced on the day. In terms of cons, they're confusing for me to keep track of and for people to read if they've read a later post than the backdated one, because they aren't sure what goes where or when goes who.

So I apologise.

The journey to Japan was a relatively simple (if not prolonged) one. I woke up at 4.30am on December 27th, after a jolly nice boxing day with my Grandparents and cousins. I gathered my things, went downstairs, then waited 'til 5.30am for Aaron to arrive. Aaron's Dad then drove us through the empty streets of London to Heathrow airport, where we checked in without disturbance, and bummed around in the departure lounge for a few hours. During this time (bear in mind it was around 9am) I had a shot of Bailey's (free sample - couldn't refuse), shopped in Harrod's (for customary presents for any Japanese families we visited), and sat around doing nothing.

We boarded the plane in a hurry after the shortest boarding period ever (I went for a pee just after it said "boarding commenced" and when I left the toilet (maximum 2 minutes) there was an announcement for last boarding call and they were closing the gate). What a polava.

The flight to Frankfurt was fairly uneventful. I think I slept for most of it.

Frankfurt was dull. We looked around the generic airport briefly, laughed heartily at some ironic postcards, then sat down until the plane to Osaka was ready. It snowed a bit.

The plane to Osaka was much more interesting; despite feeling ill (why does altitude make a cold so much worse?), I did my best to enjoy the flight: I had Coke, wine, Baileys and more Coke, as well as a rather good beef goulash for dinner. The flight film was "Up", which I had been eager to watch for a while. It was funny.

Upon arrival in Osaka, I felt too ill to really appreciate being in Japan, which was a dreadful shame. I hoped the feeling would subside throughout the day, but unfortunately it did not. We met Jay after lightning fast customs (half an hour from the BACK of the queue, AND including baggage claim), then talked a while, and headed for the station.

Jay knew I was strapped for cash, and so graciously paid for my ticket to Osaka (again, I'm hugely grateful!). We made our way to the platform, marveled at the sight of the first authentic Japanese vending machine (I heard rumors that there were more vending machines than people here, so it was something to behold), then boarded a semi-express train.

Note: The trains here are very confusing. There are local trains, express trains, semi-express trains (which are faster than the express ones...) and super-ultra-rapid express trains (or some combination of similar adjectives). Each stops at different stops, goes different speeds, and sometimes has different fares too. It's particularly bewildering because it's all in Japanese... The maps look like they were drawn by someone on acid, too (Google won't let me post a picture unfortunately).

I slept for most of the journey to rid myself of whatever hideous disease had me in its grips (aforementioned cold), but still felt like rot in Osaka. We traversed the station, then walked around the streets a bit looking at things (everything was so Japanese!), before going for a budget meal at サイゼリヤ (Saizeriya - a budget Italian restaurant in Japan). I had Doria, which for some reason means rice covered in bolognese sauce. It was nice! But as I've said twice before, I felt ill, and so I slept at the table while Jay and Aaron decided what to do.

They decided to take me to Osaka where I could curl into a ball and die.

Jay put us on a train, and we arranged to meet Chris and Alex at the other end. We sat around for ages at an entrance to "The Cube" in Kyoto station, which we thought was a shop but turned out to be a gigantic shopping mall with around 500 separate entrances. After waiting for 30 minutes we phoned Alex and Chris and told them we were lost, and they came to the rescue.

We walked through Kyoto a bit, saw the tower, acknowledged how relaxed and carefree the attitude was here, exchanged stories, and then got on a train. The house they were staying at is along the Kamo river in Kyoto, which we walked along, exchanging more stories, until we arrived.

I dumped my bags and crawled into bed in a sorry state until morning, while Aaron went to the shop and stayed up for a large portion of the night talking. I think I made the right decision from a healing perspective, whereas he made the right one from a social perspective.

1 all.

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