…and I want to go back again as soon as I can. I loved everything over there, from the ancient shrines and palaces, to the modern world of Tokyo, with its shops and sky scrapers and giant robots. This was my first overseas trip, and I just saw so many amazing things. I’e been having a blast sharing my happy snaps with friends and family, and I’ve also been drawing some of the things I’ve seen. I had to talk more about my experiences.
Sorry if you wanted more reviews. They’ll come soon.
My partner and I flew into Osaka, after a stop-over at Kuala Lumpur. I have never been in an airplane for that long, so that was an experience. Air travel is a rather everyday event, but there is so much that goes into it. If I’d wanted to travel to Japan 100 years ago, I would have been having a very different experience. It’s things like this that remind me that we are already living in a futuristic world.
I did make another observation while flying. On my journey I began reading Charlie Jane Anders’s new novel The City in the Middle of the Night. Not finished yet, but loving it so far. This book is set on a tidally locked planet where humans live in the habitable twilight realm and there are no natural indicators of the passage of time. While flying from Osaka to Kuala Lumpur, I got to a part in the story with characters adjusting to life in a city where no-one really bothers to officially keep track of the time. Everyone is on their own schedule and there is no attempt to synch up. When I got to Kuala Lumpur all jet-lagged and air sick, I felt like I had been transported to this crazy city. My body had no idea what time it was or how much sleep I had. Meanwhile all around me everyone else had just come in on flights from all over the world, and with people on so many different timezones it was rather disorientating. The Burger King always had a line because it was always someone’s lunchtime, and there were people sleeping everywhere. Now whenever I think of life on a tidally locked planet, I’m going to imagine it as constant jet lag at a busy international airport.
Now onto the actual adventure.
We stayed six nights in Osaka, and from there had day trips into Nara, Kyoto and Hiroshima. A day trip to Hiroshima from Osaka is only possible thanks to the Shinkansen bullet train. On regular trains, the trip takes five hours one way, but the Shinkansen makes it a manageable two. Again, I’m reminded how far technology is advancing and how small the world is getting. Of course, going to Hiroshima meant seeing the Atomic Bomb Dome (Genbaku Dome) and the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park and Museum. That was an emotional experience.
It seems lately that most apocalypses in fiction are caused by climate change rather than nuclear war. That’s understandable, with the end of the Cold War, nuclear war isn’t quite the boogeyman it once was. Meanwhile, we’re starting to see both the affects of climate change, and the reluctance of humanity to acknowledge and address the issue. In this age, it’s possible to forget just how close we still are to nuclear annihilation. Going to Hiroshima was hard, and the museum there does a great job of showing just how horrific the bombs were, and reminding us of just how many of these weapons there still are, and how ready people are to use them. It’s definitely a place people should see if they get the chance.
I should note that when I went there, most of the museum was closed for renovations. I don’t know how I would have gone emotionally seeing the whole thing. Being a day trip, we also couldn’t stay to see everything because we were going to the nearby Miyajima island. You may have seen pictures of Miyajima before, or at least of the floating torii gate the island is famous for. After going to Miyajima and seeing the torii and the Itsukushima shrine at low tide, I really want to go back to the island. Would be great to see the place at high tide, where the torii and shrine appear to float on the water, and would also be good to go up the mountain and see all the temples up there. The whole island feels really magical, and I would love a few days to explore it all.
Whilst Japan is a very modern country, there are also amazing ancient places to see. Nara was amazing, with deer that bowed for treats. They seem polite, but if you don’t feed them after they bow they get pushy. The highlight of Nara though was the Great Buddha at Todai-ji. The largest bronze statue of Buddha in the world, housed in one of the world’s largest wooden buildings. Being in this building was really awe-inspiring, and seeing something so big, and so ancient (built around 743CE) makes me understand the people who claim aliens built any impressive ancient wonder a bit better. Of course, the idea shows how little credit we give ancient peoples and has no evidence to back it up, but being around some huge ancient buildings makes me understand the disbelief better.
The temples and palaces of Kyoto are amazing, I especially enjoyed wandering around Higashiyama and the Kiyomizu-dera temple at evening. The area was lit up and everything was open late due to a festival, and it was just beautiful. The neighbourhood was full of old machiya houses lining a winding road of mostly foot traffic. As we went up hill, we even saw a pagoda in the distance. Also, one of the machiya houses was a starbucks. I really wanted to stop there, but the place was full. I’d love to go back to Kyoto and stay for a couple of nights.
We also saw a Samurai Kembu show at the Kyoto Samurai Kembu Theatre. Kembu is a form of interpretative dance with swords and fans set to traditional music and poetry. It has been used by the samurai for centuries, but modern kembu seems to have kicked off after the Meiji period when he samurai were stripped of their swords. The show we went to contained not only great choreography, but also explained a lot of elements of samurai culture in a fun way.
After a busy week exploring so many different parts of Japan, we took the Shinkansen to Tokyo. Akihabara to be exact. I’ve always thought that I could never live in a city, but after spending four nights in Tokyo, I think maybe Sydney just sucks. There was one department store called Radio Kaikan which had so many places selling Pokémon cards. As well as playing the card game, I also collect cards by some of my favourite illustrators. Since I don’t need to actually be able to read the text for this collection, I went crazy and bought a lot of common cards. My Tomakazu Komiya and Midori Hanada collections got a nice boost.
Speaking of Pokémon, yes I went to the Pokémon Mega Centre and it was awesome. Bought myself some new plushie buddies, including a Ditto as Trubbish. Which reminds me, I should join Twitter so I can follow the Ditto as Electrode page. And also so I can do other Twitter stuff I suppose. I did so many Pokémon related things, that I became inspired to do a Nuzlocke. A Nuzlocke challenge is playing through a Pokémon game with the following restrictions: 1. You may only capture the first Pokémon you encounter in each area, and 2. If a Pokémon faints, it is considered ‘dead’ and cannot be used again in the game. 3. All Pokémon must be given nicknames, to increase how attached you get to them. There are endless additional rules to add, but these three are the universal ones. I’ll be playing on SoulSilver, because those gen 2 remakes are probably the best Pokémon games – hell, maybe even the best games – ever. I get so happy every time I play Silver.
Whilst shopping in Tokyo was amazing, that wasn’t all we did there. We visited both Yoyogi and Ueno Parks, and whilst it isn’t technically cherry blossom season yet, we did get to see a few early bloomers. Such pretty trees. We crossed that massive crossing in Shibuya, and I also watched the madness from the Starbucks upstairs. Yes, I know it’s just crossing the road, but there are so many people everywhere that it felt pretty cool. Went up the Tokyo Metropolitan Government building and saw the whole city. It stretches on forever! And we made a stop at Asakusa Temple. That was our last full day in Tokyo and at that point I just wanted to stay on holiday forever. But I got a fortune at the temple and it told me to go back to my homeland. Stupid pragmatic fortune ruining my fantasy.
And finally, we saw the Unicorn Gundam in Odiaba. My partner is really into anything giant robot related and has a ton of gunpla kits. When I was planning the holiday, his only condition was that we see the big Gundam. I could do whatever I wanted for the rest of the holiday, as long as he got to see the Gundam transform. So we went to Diver City (getting off at the Tokyo Teleport station. Love the name) and after a lot of gunpla shopping, we got to see this big boi light up and transform. It was awesome.
The whole trip was awesome.
I want to go back so bad.
But before I do that, I have another holiday to plan. Next year Worldcon will be held in New Zealand, and I can’t miss that.