Friday, 27 March 2009

Genghis Kong vs. Venereal Diseases

Right - I'm back.

I have eaten my breakfast, washed and dressed, been to the gym and eaten my lunch, and I don't have to go out again for 3 hours so I should be able to lay down a pretty decent amount of bloggery.

*CHEERING AND APPLAUSE*

Thank you, thank you, you're too kind. Settle down now, settle down.

It has been a terrifically long time since my last proper blog update. Part of the reason for this long hiatus was the coming of my family to visit (well, three quarters of my family). At the end of February my elder brother Oli came to Tokyo and I showed him around a bit, then we went off for a week or so tour of Kansai (Kyoto, Nara and Osaka). After that, my parents arrived too, and once Oli had gone home me and the parents went off on another merry jaunt around Western Japan (Kyoto, Nara, Himeji and Hiroshima). So I have been busy touring and travelling and translating, sightseeing and seasides and sausages, eating and eating and eating.

I really enjoyed having my family here to visit. It was nice to share a bit of my peculiar life here with them, and I was very grateful to spend some time with British people. That might sound like a peculiar statement, but honestly the endless intercultural interaction just gets tiring. I mean, language barriers aside, even conversations with Americans are fraught with little differences in meaning or bits of slang or references to celebrities or TV shows which just don't translate (pissed, fanny, paracetamol, pulling pants, bum, Kate Bush, Pat Sharpe, The Chuckle Brothers are just a few of the myriad conversational tools which cannot be used with Americans).

But anyway - really great time with my family. We travelled around Japan a lot, but I don't think I can write out a complete blow-by-blow account of everything we did on each day over a space of about 5 weeks. There isn't enough ink in my pen, nor enough hours in the day nor enough coffee in the world for that. So instead I'm afraid you will have to content yourselves with the (very) edited highlights.

After briefly touring all of Tokyo's main sights, me and my brother departed for Kyoto (by Shinkansen, of course). In Kyoto we stayed in a really nice Ryokan (that's a traditional Japanese inn - sleeping on futons on the floor, Japanese bath, green tea, ninjas hiding in the walls kind of thing) which gave us a very Japanese feeling. For the tourist, Kyoto is all about temples, and we saw a great many of them. It was all terribly impressive and some them were extraordinarily beautiful.

Here is a nice photo of my bother looking delightful (the wrong way) at Kinkakuji - the Temple of the Golden Pavilion.
From Kyoto we went on to Osaka. Osaka is a very cool, funky, hip, interesting city with loads of atmosphere and nightlife and good places to eat and drink, but not a great deal by way of tourist attractions. Osaka castle is a ferro-concrete reconstruction built about 45 years ago, and apart from there really is only the Aquarium (which was quite good - it's got Manta Rays and Whale Sharks) and Universal Studios Japan (which is apparently really good, but costs about £60 or something so we didn't go). However, from Osaka you can make a day trip to Himeji castle, which is the best-preserved and most beautiful mediaeval castle in of Japan. Here it is:

I'm sorry the waether didn't co-operate to provide a more glorious spectacle.

The final stop on our tour of Kansai was Nara. Nara the town has little to speak of to attract tourists, but Nara park and the temples contained within are well worth a visit. Nara's principle attractions are large heards of wild deer which wander freely though the park stealing your ice creams and menacing children

(this photo doesn't capture them at their most menacing), and the famous Todaiji Temple, which is home to the largest wooden structure on earth - the Daibutsukan, or Great Buddha hall. Here is a lovely photo.


I hope that is sufficiently impressive. It is very large. I don't know how clearly you can make it out, but each of the doors is about 4-6 times as tall as people (depending on the tallness of the people), so it really is very big. It's strange though - as you approach, you sort of think that's it's just a bit big, but not very far away. Gradually you start to realise that actually it's actually absolutely crazy big and just a bloody long way away. Curious tricks of perspective.

The Great Buddha Hall is, unsurprisingly, home to the Great Buddha - a twelve metre tall bronze statue of one of those old Buddha types, first cast in the seventh century or something ridiculously ages ago and still there. the head has had to be replaced a few times because it keeps falling off in earthquakes, but I believe the body is actually the original bronze casting from a million years ago. Pretty impressive. Didn't photograph so well.

So that was our tour. Apart from the nights in the Ryokan we were doing it on the cheapy cheap staying in hostels and things which was actually pretty fun. It was kind of like doing the gap year travelling thing again with the drinking with strangers and sleeping in crappy beds. In Osaka we met two Indian-Australian girls whose actual names I can't remember - Vandrapradeep and Dendradev or something equivalent - but they introduced themselves as 'V' and 'D', in that order. Me and Oli (both quite drunk) simultaneously burst out in fits of laughter, to be met with confused and icy stares, because apparently they had never noticed that 'V' and 'D' spell VD - venereal disease. Ho ho ho. I think we made some friends for life just there.

Anyway, urinary infections aside, really nice time.

The same day Oli and I got back to Tokyo, our parents arrived in Tokyo from England. There was nearly a week's overlap when 4/5 of the family were rocking out in Tokyo together (mad props to my little brother Greg who couldn't make it. And Happy Birthday for a month ago. Sorry I'm a bit late with that - Oli turned up and got me all confused and distracted). On my Mum's Birthday we went to say a Kabuki play which was fascinating, but very slow-paced and incredibly long. We gave up after the second act, which was after about two and three-quarter hours, because it was getting late and we wanted to find some dinner. The Kabuki also provided great entertainment for the entire remainder of the holiday, thanks to my Dad's Kabuki impersonations. He's really quite good at it - you should ask him to do it for you sometime. After Kabuki and dinner we went for Karaoke - can you imagine a more Japanesey way to spend a Birthday?

This blog will be continued tomorrow. I'm off for an all-night karaoke disaster. Don't expect much from me tomorrow. I'll speak to you all again soon.

1 comment:

Laura said...

Hope you enjoyed your karaoke all nighter, although I am glad that such things don't exist in this country, other than at Lucy's house where they go home to play Lips at 4am.

Also, I have a photo of me looking in the wrong direction in front of that shiny goldl temple too. How peculiar.