So, Japan …
Tokyo, to be honest, was a disappointment. When I say, ‘It was exactly as I imagined it would be,’ I can’t say I used that phrase in the most positive way — Tokyo is big (huge, actually), sprawling, teeming with living beings, while not really being anything but a big city that’s always in motion. It’s not a city that welcomes life, at least not the way I experienced it, because there’s something very distant about it.
I discovered today that the way I react to a city has largely to do with whether or not I think I could live (& write) there. I couldn’t live or write in Tokyo; the city would choke me; and that’s a little funny coming from me because I love cities. I love New York because I’ve always felt that I could live there, and I know I can write there because New York always manages to tap into the better parts of me. And Sapporo — oh, I love Sapporo. I could live here, and I could write here. I could see myself running down to the nearest combini and loading up on cartons of milk and juice and pre-packaged potato salad (or onigiris or sandwiches) and coming back to my desk and munching away as I pick up my pen again — and, while all this might sound like such a whimsical way of approaching life, I find that this visceral connection to places is rare and something that ought to be appreciated if one has the luxury of rootlessness.
But, back to Japan: the first three days were rough. I am very grateful and happy that I was able to put face and voice and physical form to a friend I’ve cherished for a long time, but I’m sorry I wasn’t able to see more of her. I underestimated the stress of travelling alone in a foreign country whose language is practically unknown to me, and I overestimated how much I might enjoy this backpacking thing (kind of hate it, to be honest, and have adjusted itineraries accordingly — aka had to give up cycling the Seto Inland Sea this time around). I’ve been better rested than I thought I would be, but I’m keeping to a loose non-schedule and sleeping early and waking early. My usual travel habits of walk insane amounts, guzzle fluids, eat only when at the absolute hungriest and, even then, don’t really eat a proper meal have remained intact.
Other things more pertinent to Japan: Hokkaido milk is fucking delicious. Combinis are wonderful places. Tokyo is muggy, but Sappporo weather is delightfully cool, breezy, and not humid. I had the best salmon of my life this morning in Nijo Fish Market. Also, Hokkaido soft serve is delicious. So is this one specific type of purin. And Starbucks matcha cream frappuccinos — I despise Starbucks, but the matcha cream here in Japan — I’ve had one every day and will continue to drink one as often as I can.
A more random but still pertinent thought because subways require being plugged into music: the more I listen to eAeon’s voice, the more I fall in love with it. I’d say he’s one of my top favourite vocalists, right up there with Jongwan, except Jongwan kind of exists on his own plane.
Also been journalling obsessively, reading Proust, emailing the folks with updates everyday. Moving on to Asahikawa tomorrow then Furano the day after. Three days in Furano then three days in Hakodate and hopefully three more days in Sapporo, one of which I’ll use to take a day trip to Otaru, but we’ll see — I’ll have to find lodging first, then rearrange train reservations, then cancel my Kyoto reservations because I’d be giving up Kansai for more Hokkaido, but, hey, I’m okay with that!