Monday, 27 April 2009

Nakey and stuff!

As I type this, I am feeling particularly tired and I have a headache, so this could be quite crap!

I've had an interesting couple of days staying in Narita. Yesterday we had a well deserved lazy morning and then made out way to Folklore Village. It's an Edo style village in every way possible, with traditional crafts and experiences. I managed to find some trees with their last few blossom petals - so lucky! I decorated a candle (more fun than it sounds) and tried on some geta. Of course they had to be men's geta, and I got into quite a sulk about that as women's geta are so much prettier. Booo!

Posing with blossoms.

Some geta.

Damn clown feet...

Making a candle -never done that before! :/ Lol!

We didn't have as much time to enjoy the village as we had hoped (lazy mornings you see -shite!), so we are going back at least once more to experience things such as tea ceremony and kimono wearing. I can't wait, they looked so much fun!

Today we went to see Yuki's mother Junko (now 'Mama' to me) practise with her music group. She sings beautifully. Also in the group were another singer, two shamisen players and the only male was the sensei, who played a Japanese flute. They played a couple of songs just for myself and Yuki (the only guests), and, despite never playing it together before, had a go at 'Sakura Sakura' one of my most favourite songs of all time (Yep, it's right up there with 'Their Law' by The Prodigy!), after Yuki told them how much I loved it. During a break I was allowed to try and play the shamisen, something I have wanted to learn to play for years. I was hoping to have this incredible past life experience as soon as I touched it, and, even if I couldn't play it well, be able to make it sound somewhat beautiful. I didn't. It wasn't easy, there was no magical moment and my minimal guitar experience did not help! Still, a stack of fun though! Then I tried the flute, no, scratch that, I blew a raspberry into a wooden stick. Though I do feel better for being told that it takes most people over a year to make any sound and 8 years to play well! That made me respect the sensei even more!

Junko's friends playing shamisen.

After this we went on to the local onsen. One of my most favourite things about Japan is the onsen. A scary idea to most Westerners (basically getting naked in baths with strangers), but so much fun and so, So, SO relaxing!

Myself and Yuki at the onsen, being nakey!

On the way back I saw the suicide pond. I will be going again with my 'proper camera' to get some photos for the book I'm working on. It is wonderfully creepy yet calm area, very old, very wise and spiritual. Some parts are straight out of Mononoke Hime (Ghibli film -WATCH IT!), there are all these little hills dotted around, they are actually burial mounds, you almost expect to see little kodomo sitting on branches, silently watching. I loved it there, I can't wait to go back and take some proper photos.

Tomorrow we are going back to Tokyo, I have to try very hard not to spend any money -boooo. :(

Will blog again soon!

Saturday, 25 April 2009

Day one & Two

Eeeehhhhh, where to start? What a mental day. I was awake for 36 hours in total, with 4 hours sleep the night before I left. I feel fine now, but by about 11:30 last night I was pretty bad, especially with how much walking (shopping) we did. I kept having micro sleeps on the train, I NEVER sleep on public transport, it comes from being a Londoner, you don’t trust anyone, but my body/brain couldn’t help itself. Crazy.

Anyhoo, I had such a great time with Yuki and her friends; Rose, May and Izumi. All wonderful girls, all new friends. I bought some postcards today, so my nearest and dearest should be getting those. Not as tacky as I would have liked, but very beautiful and VERY Japanese.

Yuki’s mother is a diamond, such a lovely lady, and her house is fantastic. I feel very comfortable and welcome, it is a light feeling, some places I have stayed it have felt very heavy and tinged with sadness or anger, but not this place. Maybe it is because it was owned by a Tea Master until a few months ago when he passed away. Tea Masters are very Zen, and at peace, the house reflects that.

I bought tacky things today, Ego, you should expect a Kewpie (Baby Mayo) toy when I get back.

My Japanese has improved vastly in just 24 hours, I knew it would, I just need to be around people who speak it all the time. I have actually impressed myself with how much I knew and understand. I have a couple of lazy days in Narita with Yuki and her Mother coming up; mostly walking (shopping) and enjoying the weather and surroundings. Today it is raining like a bastard, proper Japanese rain, but tomorrow is broadcast as being sunny and how. Yuki’s mother doesn’t speak any English –which is perfect for my Japanese. Then we are hitting Tokyo and Harajuku again, I have to try not to buy too much, it is really very hard though, there are so many wonderful things. Ego, I want to buy you so much, I am sorry I can’t. You REALLY need to come here, I think you will be in heaven, Japanese clothes are designed for you, and SUCH good quality. You will go crazy.

I tried momja last night. It looks like vomit, but tastes delicious. I also did some Puri Kura, and Rose dragged me to a solo Puri Kura booth, where I did anything but the beautiful model poses that the girls in the examples were doing! I also had spinach cake yesterday, sooooo tasty! I recommended it if you come to Tokyo.

Spinach cake.

Momja. It really shouldn't look like this! Rose & Izumi got a bit carried away!

No jet-lag for me, but I have found my mind wandering a bit more than usual. Probably because I have no worries here, so my mind is free to think the weird little thoughts that it wants to, like how come we so rarely say the lower case alphabet when we are adults. You know the one; a,b,c,d...’ is like ‘ah, buh, cuh, duh...’ I guess it’s pretty superfluous when you think about it.
Anyway, that’s it for today. I guess I will be posting these blogs in batches, as and when I can get internet access, either way I will alert you when they are up.

Until next time! Jaa ne

Me and Yuki.

In-flight blog.

Wherever I go, clumsy follows.

It’s dark in here. I just put my tray into the upright position. I forgot my full glass of lemon cordial was resting on it. I currently type with wet legs and a wetter bag. Fail.

Fail part 2. Listening to a bit of drum n bass (as usual) while typing this. Wondered why the sound changed. I could still hear it, but it was much quieter and more ‘tinny’. Realised I had been subjecting the people surrounding me with the possibly not so tantalising sounds of Gein –my favourite hardcore dark drum n bass act whose explicit lyrics are sampled from various horror movies. Oh well, I do like to educate people... :/

Finally saw Tropic Thunder, I really enjoyed it, apart from Tom Cruise’s performance, I don’t like him as a person, and I like him even less as an actor. Other than that it was great. I also made the huge mistake of watching Flight of the Concords it’s just impossible not to laugh at the show. Why did I do it?! I snorted at one point, I guess that is Fail part 3, or maybe that should have been number one.

Perk of the flight is that I have one of the best seats on the plane. Window seat, no one sitting next to me, end of the section and the toilet right behind me –BONUS! I can’t think of a better seat on flight, excluding Zachary Quinto’s lap, M’raow!

I have just over 8 hours of flying left, but when I post this I will have landed shopped and hopefully had a visit to an onsen. Really not too sure what to do next... I’m due for a 2 hour snooze in about 4 hours, my fail-safe way of combating jet-lag. Highly recommended. I have my DS and a load of books, so I suppose I should save my laptop battery.

Signing off for now.

*Post typing* I didn't sleep.

Saturday, 18 April 2009

1st Ever Blog - The answer to "Why Japan?"

The majority of this whole blogworld thing I am getting myself into will most likely be related to Japan in one way or another. Specifically the blogs that will be appearing over the next few weeks as I will be in Japan at the time.

Anyone who knows me knows of my affinity with Japan and it's culture. I'm a white, middle-class Londoner born and bred, yet to an extent I live my life as a Japanese. I am considered more Japanese than many Japanese by my Japanese friends. I am not Japanese.

One question I am asked more than any other (apart from, "Do you wear contacts?") is, "Why Japan?" Here I am to answer this question in the most complete way I can.
I think I need to start this whole thing off with a little background information...

It's 1989, I'm 9 years old. A new girl joins my class at school, her name is Marie she is super-bright and a year younger than everyone else (a big deal at this age), because she is new, young and from a distant country I decide to look after her. I am the oldest and the tallest so it seems only right. Marie is Japanese, she has just moved here from her home in Japan. Before long we become firm friends, we both love art and think the same way ...except when it comes to maths, which I am chronically bad at!

I never really pay much attention to Marie's race, our school is so wonderfully multicultural that we are all blind to such things. I didn't pay attention to it until she went on holiday to visit her family in Japan and came back with lots of gifts for me. Amongst my goodies are two items in particular which capture my imagination. One is a little book of Hello Kitty stickers, the other is a miniature card with a beautiful painting of a crane by a small pond surrounded with water reeds (I have always kept this). Apart from being totally bowled over by Kitty-chan (remember, it's 1989, Sanrio is very new for the UK) I am even more bowled over by the writing that is all over the book and my lovely card. It is incredible, so fluid and far more interesting that our boring alphabet. I have an instant desire to find out more. These aren't words or letters, these are beautifully constructed tiny pictures, each one individual in it's wonder.
Something clicks in my brain, a switch that can never be turned off, I am aware of the beauty of Japan and that I feel a deep connection to it's culture via just a few words that I can't even read.

I doubt Marie truly realised the massive impact those gifts made on me, they were just souveniers after all. However, these items opened up a world and a way of thinking that I could identify with more than any other. A world that understands the way my brain works, like the fact that I can notice and find incredible beauty in 'mundane' things like peeling paint. A world that for all its renowned cliquishness, has accepted me as one of its own and embraced me for my love of it's fine nation. To Marie, I am forever grateful for showing me the door. Domo arigato gozaimasu Marie-chan.

I haven't got any scanned pictures of myself and Marie, I think all the photos are in a box in the attic. If they were accessible I would have loved to have posted one here. As I don't, I've added a picture of me age 9, shortly after I 'discovered Japan'. It is the face of a child who knows there is another country out there that could may well be her future. Of course, this is a picture of me, but I see so much of the person I am now in this photo. The excitement, the thirst for more knowledge, it's all there. I can identify with the me in this photo even more than I can with pictures that were taken just one year earlier.