Thursday, 24 June 2010

Arrival back in Japan and the Need to Clear My Head.

Arriving back in Japan has been strange and interesting. My path has been dictated by visiting old friends and revisiting old haunts. My journey has become one of repeat experiences: doing things or visiting places for the first time since... 2006, or 2002, or even 2000 (although it is difficult to think of many things that I did in 2000 that I did not repeat in 2001-2 or 2004-6).

I had forgotten quite how frustrating Japan can be at times: it often seems that there is a set way of doing things and if you don't do something the way it should be done, you have a really hard time of it. Wireless internet, for example, is almost impossible to find unless you have a subscription to one of Japan's mobile phone networks. And to travel, you pay for what you get: if you want to go faster, you can take the shinkansen, but it will cost you: some of these are the Japanese train equivalent of flying on Concorde (I guess that comparison's a bit out of date now). Veering towards the cheap side of expensive (i.e. wanting to cover lots of ground without spending too much money, and having enough time to do it slowly) I took a wild but logical route from Hakata 博多: by slow train to my former workplace of Yoshitomi 吉富, by slightly faster train to visit Texan Dan in Beppu 別府 (everyone's favourite hotspring resort: twinned with Rotorua and Bath), then by overnight ferry to Osaka 大阪. (This was the same as the last ferry journey I made in Japan just before I left 4 years ago.)

I had also forgotten quite how wonderfully hospitable Japan can be: In Osaka, I had a wonderful 3 days being treated somewhat like a prodigal son by my Sensei and her husband, and revisiting Kurama-san 鞍馬山, a favourite mountain temple near Kyoto. I then took the cheapest rail option to Tokyo 東京 (11 hours instead of 3 and a half, but half the price.)

For the last few days I have been staying with Ken who I worked with 4 years ago, in 三鷹市 where I lived 8 years ago.

Outside Sakura heights - 8 years on! (a new building, I think)

I have now moved on to the residence of Ryan and Nami, who, likewise, I haven't seen for 4-5 years, and who live nearby with their 2-year-old daughter. I am promised a trip with them up Takao-san 高尾山, a favourite mountain temple near Tokyo. Meanwhile, tomorrow I am meeting up (for the 1st time in 6 years) with Durham friends Dan and Helen (and Helen's fiancé), for some monja-yaki (which I haven't eaten for 5 years).

I really ought to be looking for a job, to fulfill my fortunate position as the holder of a Working Holiday Visa. But first, as I may have been insinuating in recent posts, my head needs clearing. I have been attempting to do this by staying in the cities and starting to fill in some of the gaps in my blog but it doesn't seem to be working as completely as I thought it might. (I have done a few entries: to find them, click on the arrow by May, to the left of this post. Also new Toilets on Trains images...)

Good advice from Steve (bro) and Jo (who I left in London but have been chatting with on Gmail) as well as a touch of serendipity / gut feeling (advice from God?) are all pointing towards a trip out into the wild as a means to clear my head, and this is what I am planning. I have left half my luggage in Ken's spacious loft, and will probably walk on from Takao-san into pastures - or forests - unknown. There is a travel book entitled All The Right Places at the start of which the author finds his way to Takao-san, and knows not where he is going next. I am in much the same position.

Unlike the protagonist in the film Into The Wild, I'll be in touch.

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