Came from Tokyo a week ago (also photos now online). Below are the assorted ramblings from the trip, written mostly last week’s Saturday the 15th. The title of the posting is a writing on a t-shirt I saw in Tokyo (no, I couldn’t get it with me, someone was wearing it). By the way Bemmu is planning to have a similar trip next year, if you’re interested.
On the morning of the day we flew, my mom called me that there’s a Typhoon in Japan. I got a bit scared but nevertheless we took off. Once we arrived to Narita airport, the Typhoon was said to already have passed Tokyo. I misplaced my passport for a while but eventually found it in a wrong pocket. A bit later, the airport loudspeaker announced some flight being late, “we are sorry for any convenience”. Welcome to the land of Engrish.
The ryokan, a hostel kind of a traditional, simple housing, was sufficient and actually rather cozy :). There’s a shower and an ok toilet. The room, shared with three other guys from the group I’m traveling, has air conditioning (not in all rooms I hear). The air conditioner and the shower both had control panels which allowed setting the temperature in celcius grades. The controls were in Japanese though so it took a bit of trial and horror ;).
On the first day we made an omelette kind of a meal in a small restaurant, each of us for oneself. It was delicious though the timelag was still heavy on, I think, all of us. On Saturday it got a bit easier. We had a gorgeous Japanese (?) breakfast at the price of around 3 euros. Soup, two kinds of salad, a kind of tea I never quite got used to, rice, eggs, sausage. We shopped, there was a bookstore with quite a few storeys, one of which had books in english and other languages besides Japanese. Gaming. Karaoke, blur, queen, wonderful world, Japanese pop for those who had a clue about the language. Street shows. Photos. Engrish. Souvenirs. Milk. Tobacco smoke in game houses. The Japanese society has smoking issues. Tobacco is sold in vending machines.
I am no Japan or manga (etc.) enthusiast myself, and I don’t know the language. Alas, many of the cultural nuances were probably left unnoticed for me. I did get a lot out of it nevertheless; much of the fact is thanks to Bemmu, who arranged the trip in the first place. He knows the city and Japanese well enough that basically, whatever we wanted to do, we could.
We ate lots of more or less strange foods, though most of the time they were very edible indeed. I don’t remember any names though, thanks to the three scripts the Japanese use, none of which I know, and the strange sound of the language. I enjoyed grinning at the Engrish and the “philosophical” writings that were quite common on the streets. I loved the moment we spent in a tea house, sipping green tea and before that, eating the funny little cake — and trying to do this according to a sort of a traditional style. Instructions were given on paper. We also visited the Ghibli (Totoro, etc.) museum, though again, those who knew more about the subject enjoyed it a lot more than I.
The days were pretty full. A lot of it was just traveling around and seeing famous places. As The ones in our group who knew more about manga, anime or Japanese shopped for a lot of that stuff. Others bought electronics, which can be cheap, though new stuff is roughly the same price as in Finland. I got a Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ8 for about 28000 yen (just under 200 euros; it had been in demonstration use). It was fun trying to find a wall plug adapter for the camera, Sakari, one of us luckily knew what electricity is in Japanese so we went arond asking for a “denki adaptoo for juurop”. Finally found it, too, for about one euro (180 yen).
Towards the end of the week it somehow got a little lonely, though lots of people were around me most of the time. I was happy to meet Marlen from Switzerland (along with a Canadian guy whose name I fail to remember), who also stayed in our ryokan. On Wednesday we sat in a pub and later rented a karaoke room (a quite popular local hobby). They even had Fiona Apple! :).
On Thursday Arttu, Jonna and Miia from our traveling group joined us, and we found a more Japanese bar, the keeper and the other guests of which we got to know during the evening. Marlen knew Japanese, otherwise we couldn’t have communicated almost at all. It was so much fun, the barkeeper showed a photo of his son and told us that I look like him ^_^. We ate jellyfish and drank several kinds of drinks, and several middle aged men chatted with us, mostly about Japan and Finland. One of them, I understood he was psychologist, even offered flowers for all the girls we had with us there. Then he concluded “I won’t give any to the guys”, and everyone had a laugh :).
And then, yesterday, the farewell. Woke up at 5 a.m. Japanese time, the plane took of at 11 a.m., and we landed at Helsinki-Vantaa around 15:45, Finnish time.
The flight was an experience in itself for me, due to technical reasons :). The backs of seats had entertainment systems, allowing to enjoy a selection of movies, tv shows, music, games etc. The system itself made an impression: a simple gui with relatively original controls: a double-sided wired remote with a microphone and an orientation sensor. It also had a credit card reader, allowing phone calls and sending 2$/piece e-mails and SMS’s. Too bad it was buggy and I got it to crash, though thanks to that i found out it was Linux-based, seemingly a virtual machine of some kind.
September 22, 2007 04:34 in