Showing posts with label Japan. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Japan. Show all posts

Love Letter to Japan

Fuji-San

This past Autumn Dan and I were fortunate enough to spend almost two months in Japan. Dan's been there about five times before and although I'd never visited before, I've carried out a long lasting love affair with it in my head. Going into anything with high expectations is always risky but Japan was even better than I'd imagined.

The people were, almost without exception, incredibly polite and the kindness and welcome we experienced from many of the people we met there was a humbling and wonderful lesson on how to make strangers feel at ease. The landscape was stunning, the cities vibrant and all consuming and the contrast between the fast-paced modernity of urban life with the incense infused temples and shrines were a living demonstration of beautiful contradiction.

Since arriving in Bangkok last night, we've been following the news of the horrific earthquake and tsunami and have been consumed with thoughts for the people we met there and the ones we didn't. There are really no words.

Update: People from the UK, Canada and USA can find some good links directing them to where they can donate to disaster relief in Japan here

Osaka

Kyoto

Kyoto

Geishas
Stunning Autumn Leaves
Bridge - Kyoto
Class Photo
Kyoto
Palace Grounds - Osaka
Feeding Wild Deer - Nara









All photos by me (except the one with the deer - that was taken by Dan).

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Images of Japan

I've been going through some older images that I never got around to posting online and have added a few new ones to my Japan Flickr Album. How can it already be three months since I left Japan?

This one is my favorites:


Look at all those happy tourists getting their photos taken in front of the Buddha!

And this next one is dedicated to all my Canadian friends and family who are currently in the dredges of -30 degree Celsius weather. By the end of February, it feels like you can't possibly make it through another week of hibernation. I remember it well. But spring is coming, and with it months of this kind of loveliness to look forward to:


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Still Enchanted, Still Busy



Although I doubt it's scientifically provable, I am almost completely certain that time moves faster in Tokyo than anywhere else in the world. I feel a bit like I'm in a time lapse video where time is flowing instead of ticking, shadows are swimming in and out and light moves a bit too quickly from day to night and then back to day again. It's a conundrum because it is one of the most magical cities in the world - I want to be here - but time slips away too quickly. I feel like a girl trying to catch water in my hands.

We've been busier than usual, partly due to a lovely visit from some UK family during the past few weeks. Dan's aunt, uncle and cousin swung by Tokyo following a short holiday in China. Though I haven't felt at all lonely during our travels, it was almost surprising how nice it felt to see familiar faces again. While they were here we pulled ourselves away from laptops and work a little more than usual and took in some great temples, smaller towns and Tokyo sites. Although I am definitely a city girl, it was so wonderful to get out into the country where the trees are all turning gold and red and just sit and take in the less hectic pace. Japan is such a contradiction. It's all bright lights, big city, overwhelming technology and modernity, but it's equally ancient, spiritual and traditional. I've seen a lot of Shinto and Buddhist shrines over the past few weeks and there will be much more of that when we eventually make our way to Kyoto.



In between being tourists, we've been working like crazy people. We've got a few big projects launching this week and we're in that frenzied, last minute stage of tying up loose ends and testing and then retesting again to try and avoid any bugs or glitches. I can say with complete honesty that, at the moment, we've got more demand for our services than we can possibly take on. I know that times are hard in a lot of industries but I suspect this might translate to some small gains for the freelancer - where companies are afraid to hire someone full time, which is a commitment, they are quite willing to fill their gaps with those of us looking to take on interesting, short term projects. Our plan is to take off most of December and focus a bit on some of our own ideas, which have take the back burner as we work on other things. It's a hard balance though, because we've also had some enquiries lately that are pretty amazing in scope and scale - some of these things would be pretty hard to pass up.

We'll be spending Christmas and New Years in Seoul. I'm excited about it, but it's kind of bittersweet. I do think I'll miss the turkey dinner and the quiet, insulated way the holidays usually feel. If anyone knows where to find a traditional Christmas dinner in Seoul, please speak up!


I think we'll try to have a quieter week this week. We've got a little grocery store across the lane from our flat and I've been cooking a bit in our tiny kitchen, which consists of one hot plate, one microwave, one frying pan, one pot, two bowls, two plates and some cutlery. The only thing I've missed a little it is having an oven, but even that is negligible. I can remember when I moved into my solo place in Cardiff and I felt the need to buy a ton of dishes and cooking things from Ikea. I was so used to having hand blenders and all kinds of pots and dishes that I thought I needed them. If and when we ever settle in somewhere again, I really think I'll feel quite differently about what I really do need. Although two burners would be nice, we've made due really well in our small Tokyo kitchen. I think the key is to clean as you go because there's no room for a mess and no extra dishes to allow for it.

And when we don't want to cook, we can pick up fresh sushi across the street for about £2. Not bad at all!

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All photos by me. 

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Report from the Frontier ... Tokyo Typhoon



I am just waiting to get my call from Sophia Coppola - obviously she will want me as a creative collaborator after watching this gem.

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Tokyo Cat Cafe

Last week Dan and I spent an hour in a Tokyo cat cafe. I'd heard that these kinds of places existed but I was skeptical. I really didn't want to wander into a glorified animal shelter where things were in disarray and where the animals were not well taken care of. Although Neko Cafe: Cat Magic was a little on the stinky side (how could it not be with more than a dozen cats living in an apartment size space about ten feet above ground level?), it was surprisingly appealing. The cats were well tended to, lazy and were obviously subjected to more love and attention then they had much use for; when we arrived they were all sleeping and didn't seem interested in human attention. One of the rules at Cat Magic is don't wake up sleeping cats. And don't bug them if they walk away from you, which in my experience happened a lot.

The most interesting thing about the place was that, at least while we were there, it was almost exclusively frequented by posh looking business men in suits who came in alone and spent time stroking the cats. It's hard to imagine this from a Western perspective - you are a top level executive in the middle of your work day at a high pressure job and on your lunch break you take time out to hang with kittens as a way of de-stressing. It was strange but sweet.






Photos by me.

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Portrait - Tokyo Love


Photo by Dan.

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A Few Things I Love About Tokyo

That you can be surrounded by skyscrapers and turn a corner to find a lovely temple where people tie their prayers to trees and face their gods barefooted under chimes and lanterns. It smells of incense and autumn.

That there are endless tiny little alley ways you would miss if you blinked and they are all filled with strange little closet-like restaurants where people meet to eat and drink. Every place feels like a revelation; sometimes one that is less than pleasant if horse penis and 'choice uterus' is on the menu. 

That my lack of literacy in this language combined with my appalling sense of direction makes me remember what it feels like to be a child; I almost feel like clapping my hands together with happiness when I realize that I know where I'm going or when I remember how to say something in Japanese. 

That the city feels never ending, never sleeps and is always bathed in the most beautiful lights. 

That it feels quieter when it rains.





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Tokyo at Night = Magic


I really like this photo Dan took of me last night when we went out to find some dinner. Especially at night, the surreal saturation of this city is just intensified - all the lights come on in all the shops, down all the streets and little lanes and it's just stunning.

The strangest sensation for me so far is that suddenly I find myself completely illiterate. I'm so used to looking at language and immediately understanding it - without thinking. Language is my strength, the thing I always feel confident about. In Japan I feel like a two year old, struggling with the absolute basics. So far I can say:
  • Domo Arigato (thank you very much - truth, I only know this because of the Mr. Roboto song)
  • Domo Arigato Gozimas (thank you very much, but said more politely)
  • Konichiwa (good morning/ early day)
  • Konbanoi (good evening - I know I'm not spelling it right but that's how it sounds)
  • Hi (yes)
  • Kudesai (please)
I really need to learn/remember: two, can I have, the check, pardon me/excuse me, vegetarian (I'm not one, but occasionally this feels like the safest option), bathroom/toilets, do you speak english, I don't speak Japanese. If I can get these down within the next week I'll be happy. Dan is much more advanced than I am - he can even read a number of the characters. 

This sense of confusion and muteness really underlines how life-changing the ability to read and use language is and what a core right learning those basic skills of communication should be. Without being able to speak and read the local language, you're always a gypsy - someone merely passing across the periphery of a place, looking for ways in. 


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Tokyo Pad



I love Japan so far, which is pretty amazing given that my expectations were insanely high. This morning we were leaving Shinjuku station en route to our apartment for the first time and we got pretty lost. Out of nowhere a lovely man came up, offered his help and walked us way out of his way to get us on the right path. He didn't do it for a tip or any gratification apart from being nice and practicing his English for a few minutes. I'm sure that there are rude Japanese people just as there are rude people in any culture, but for the most part, the politeness here is almost overwhelming. Every time I think of our helper this morning it makes me smile.

Small kindnesses are so important. It's a good reminder.

The above clip is a little video tour I made of our flat, which is quite comfortable and actually a little larger than I was expecting. We've unpacked and Dan already has his work station set up (the work is endless right now). When we went to the rental agency this morning, they had us sign a contract, which was mostly standard things but included were two clauses that made us laugh: we are not allowed to become Yakuza (gangsters) or have them sleep over, and we are not allowed to play noisy games of Mahjong. Both reasonable requests I think!

I think we're going to like it here!

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Japan



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Tokyo


inter // states from Samuel Cockedey on Vimeo.

It blows my mind to think that in less than one month we'll be living in the middle of this.

Squeee!

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