We start this blog from being recently freed from almost all stable ties in Sydney. We spent the week prior frantically trying to juggle work, farewells, tie loose ends, plan the essentials, as well as pack our apartment & cart it all out to a storage facility in woop woop where it is to sit quietly until we return. The last load we took out only hours before our flight left! And with a sense of relief and excitement we said our good-byes to set out on this huge adventure together. One that both of us had been hungering for for years, even decades.
This is to be the Big Trip. 5 months of newness and adventure and relaxation.
We are leaving our options open.
A chance to feel free, inspired and let life lead us.
Also our first opportunity as a couple to operate on the same clock (no more night shifts!) and develop some healthy habits and refine our plans for the future.
Exhausted from lack of sleep, the drudgery of mundane details that need tying up still trailing behind us, we land in Japan and catch the Skyline Access train to Yokohama. Heated seats and super-cleanliness are a joy…
So far so good!
The dawning realisation that the details of how to get to our friends Marley & Kumiko’s house posed the first challenge, until a lovely stranger saw our faces and offered her help – including the use of her phone. Rescued!
Eventually we found our way to Yokohama and were greeted by our hosts, Marley in his thongs & board shorts on a freezing cold day and Kumiko! Our first port of call started the delicious but very un-Japanese food trend of our stay in Japan. All-You-Can-Eat Chinese in the biggest Chinatown outside of China.
The trend continued throughout our stay as we ate Korean, Hawaiian, Italian, Sri Lankan, French pastries and Brazillian!!
Despite all of this we managed to balance it out with an abundance of home grown Japanese deliciousness! Vending machine ticket soba & udon noodles (not made in the vending machine but inside in the kitchen where you present your ticket), goose soba, oodles of noodles and rice cakes with all sorts of mystery fillings (YUM!), fresh sashimi and tempura offcuts at the fish markets, home made delights & plum wine from Kumiko, Taro soft serve, and an incredible soba noodle spread in Kamakura.
Hamish buoyant from his already instated, love, familiarity and comfort in Japan, Alecia engaged in the newness and reclaiming some basic Japanese language from school, we set out; reinvigorated by the freezing cold, we walked everywhere…
We went through luminous Yokohama city, the calming, serene simplicity of the International passenger terminal, the cool, green, tranquil, antiquity and tradition in the shrines, gardens and soba spots, colourful, neon retail madness, pristine desaturated skyscraper forests, the appetising and fascinating vastness of the fish markets hustle and techie Arkihabara; the colourful electronics district that is full of games, gadgets and fantasy figurines; from the supremely innocent and juvenile to the strange, animated and pornographic – a fuzzy line that creates a fascinating undercurrent to the pop imagery that permeates the city and its advertising spaces.
We were both struck by the supremely immaculate sense of sophisticated, style and appearance that most of the Japanese people we encountered maintain. Tokyo particularly impressed upon us our unsophisticated winter travel clothing and assaulted Alecia’s fashion training with the need to wear gumboots, a little black dress and a ski jacket all at the same time! We resurfaced with the desire to be better, more stylish, more polite and the clear realisation that Hamish is Japanese under that English-Australian skin of his!
Both equally snap happy, Alecia crushed on Japanese typography and signage, calming cool tranquility of the shrines, Tokyo coats & jackets, and the divine Japanese embroidery and shibori textiles. Hamish lusting after Japanese running “ninja” shoes, and the carefully considered design sensibility in every aspect of life as well as the general refined, courteous and helpful Japanese manner.
SPECIAL JOYS & FASCINATIONS OF OUR STAY WERE:
- Bird sounds broadcast at train stations & hearing the theme from Astroboy at Takadanobaba where the artist was born
- The separation of recycling items covered by different coloured nets on the street for collection
- Trains: quiet, clean and precision time of arrival counting down the minutes on the digital train line map
- The reign of mini everything! mini trucks, mini cars, mini bags on wheels (about 20cm square!)
- Pristine cleanliness epitomised in their self opening & closing, white-lace-lined taxis
- Pay by the hour reading spots like an internet cafe for books and movies
- The mysteriousness of kimono clad women wandering through the rest of the western-clad population
- The flurry of umbrellas at the Shibuya train station intersection
- That it is acceptable & safe enough to fall asleep in cafes
- Toilets like no other! No skid marks in Japan!
- Japanese stationery stores. And we went to LOTS! Emerging, victorious, with the coolest stickytape on the planet and the ultimate in pencil case design!
- A vintage shop where we discovered a kawaii vintage panda face cast and beautifully painted antique wooden Japanese toys. SCORE!
- Top up train tickets! change your mind half way through your journey? no probs.. just top up your ticket before you exit your destination… a grown up solution!
- The Japanese characteristic of applying texture to everything! especially building surfaces, often in the form of exterior tiling, precisely executed.
- The beginning of many happy encounters with the doggies of the world!
- Finding familiar friends in new places. Somehow makes it even better catching up!
- Giant iris flowers as street lights in Ebisu.
FRUSTRATIONS & HINDERANCES:
- Coffee withdrawal
- Multiple account freezes that sent Alecia into financial panic!
- The fascination with sexualised teen pop idols
- Smoking in bars
- Lack of trees and greenery in urban areas prior to the Sakura blossom explosion
- Being woken in the night by the swaying and shaking of the apartment in one of their many earth tremors