Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Japan

I've been feeling conflicted lately.

The thing is, we went to Japan. And lately, I've been kind of loving Japan more than Australia.

I feel guilty, as if I've made some commitment to Australia—that I'll always love Australia the most.

Oh well.  We feel what we feel.

There are some major differences in the love-feelings, though.

With Australia, it was very spiritual. It felt like fate. I believe it IS fate. Though that could just be my delusional mind speaking.

I don't really feel any spiritual connection to Japan. In fact, the only remotely (kind of) spiritual feeling I had was when we met up with one of our Australian friends in Nagoya.  I wish there had been some spiritual feelings at the cat cafes we had visited. But no such luck there.

I was extremely interested in the history of Australia. I have no interest in the history of Japan.  Some aspects of the modern culture intrigues me—especially the trend of wearing surgical masks and using water bottles to scare off feral cats.  But I really couldn't care less about Japanese dynasties and stuff like that.

Really. There's pretty much one thing I totally love about Japan. The food! It makes me sound like a total glutton.  But we can be politically correct and just say "Foodie".

I love mochi, azuki, and matcha.   It's the sweet stuff that has won my heart the most. But I also like the tofu, sushi, pickled vegetables, etc.  We had so much fun eating at a conveyer belt sushi place. The food wasn't the best I've ever had, but it was one of my best restaurant-experiences.

With Australia, it's probably food that is the least exciting to me. I have love for Australian food products pretty much only because they come from Australia.  I don't dislike the food. It's fine. But the love is about where it's from and not what it is.

I guess I could say I love Japan for it's Japanese food. I love Australian food because it's from Australian.

Well, maybe things aren't that extreme. I did like other things, in Japan, besides the food.  One thing I loved is the language issues.  I had never been too on going to a country that doesn't speak English.  It scared me a bit. But it ended up, not knowing the language was one of the best parts.  Although I should confess that it's actually not that hard being English-speaking in Japan.  There's so much English signage.  And when there wasn't, Google translate came to our aid.

We managed to add a few key polite Japanese words to our vocabulary so we'd come of as somewhat polite and not horribly ethnocentric-American.  But besides that, there WAS a communication barrier. I loved it, because I could totally avoid small talk.

I thought I loved talking to strangers and eavesdropping on conversations in Disney lines, but I really loved NOT doing those things in Japan. So maybe my love for those things was a lie I told myself.

Or maybe I just needed a break from it all.

That being said....

I have actually been learning Japanese. I started before the trip and am continuing with it.  I'm doing it more, though for brain exercise purposes and less for communication reasons.

When I was in the deep midst of the Australia obsession, I only wanted to read Australia novels.  That's not the case with Japan. But I did just finish reading a beautiful Japanese novel—Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami.  I plan to read many more of his other books.

This post is so jumpy. Sorry about that.  It's just I have a lot to say, and don't know how to organize it in an impressive, intelligent way.

Maybe I'll end with a story.

I don't know if it will be funny, or it's one of those things where you have to be there.

So...on a Friday night, Jack and I were walking to a soba restaurant to meet Tim.  I suddenly heard this singing. It sounded like it came from some type of speaker system.  I jokingly asked Jack if he heard it too, or if I was hallucinating. I don't think he did at first, because it was quiet. But then it got louder.

We saw the singing was coming from a truck driving around the street. It sounded somewhat religious, and I had this feeling that it was some kind of cult thing. There was singing, and then some kind of announcement. I figured the truck was recruiting new followers.

Then while in line at the soba restaurant, we started Googling. I learned that sound trucks are part of Japanese culture, and that it's often a right-wing nationalist kind of thing.

We talked about this for a bit.  I started to get more curious about the particular truck we had heard. Was it political, or I had been right about the religious cult.  I Googled some of the lyrics we heard, and learned it's neither political or religious.  It was a truck selling sweet potatoes!  It's like the Japanese equivalent of the ice-cream truck.

Okay. Sorry. I can't end with that story. Because I MUST also mention the vending machines of Japan.  Yes, it's another (kind of) food related thing.  But still.

I am so amazed at the amount of vending machines.  I think we had three on our street in Tokyo. It's so convenient. As long as you have a little change in your pocket, you don't have to worry about going thirsty. And not only do they have cold drinks, but warm/hot ones as well.

I had often heard that Japan has vending machines for EVERYTHING.  I don't doubt that, but we didn't see it with our own personal eyes.  Once in awhile I saw a food or cigarette machine, but mostly it was just drinks.

Well, I guess I'll end here.  If anyone is interested, I have a Japanese-trip album on Flickr. I'm not done uploading yet, but you can see what I have so far.