October 02, 2007

I heart Japan #1

After receiving a lovely message from em.s from My Musings asking me "Did you just love it there?" I have to answer quite simply "YES!".

I have many fond memories associated with traveling to Japan not at least as it was the first country I ever traveled to overseas when I was 21 years of age, back in 1989.

My first experience really created very a huge impression on me for so many reasons. I was studying Interior Design at the time and it was the "Year of Design" in Japan. So thankfully the University I was studying at had a lecturer who had a real love for the Japan and their culture. It was of course going to be a great experience for all those who were able to go. I was was one of the lucky ones.

We were in Japan on a very strict Itinerary for the first two weeks and then through sheer luck again, a friend of mine who was going on the trip with the group, organised an extra week for a small number of us who were close friends to stay in a Japanese colleague's of her father's (an architect)in Hakone for an extra week.

The first week was spent based in Kyoto and going on many field trips to various temples, museums, exhibitions and markets. A day trip to Hiroshima was included and was a very powerful experience, acknowledge so that some of the students on our trip didn't want to experience going there. We also traveled on the 'Shinkansen' to Nagoya for the day to the '89 World Expo'.

Our second week we traveled again by 'Shinkansen' to Tokyo where we were based so we could attend the "Tokyo Furniture trade fair" amongst other things. I with a friend cheekily passed ourselves off as the designers of a small installation that was from Australia, we had a few photo's taken and thought we were very clever...(Thankfully it's long enough ago that I can mention that story and not offend anyone!)

A group of us visited 'Tokyo Disneyland' and were able to pass ourselves off as under 16 years old, again thought we were very clever as we were all aged around 19-22 years old! We had a day of wandering and got I got horribly lost. I remember feeling quite exhilarated by the whole being separated by my friends on the railway line and getting off the at the wrong station and being greeted by this huge billboard which had "Kylie Minogue's" latest single playing... instead of being scared in this huge strange city I thought it was great fun.

Another day trip included traveling to the 'Toei animation studio'. The effort we put into getting there was amazing considering Japan didn't have much English signage outside of the main tourist city precincts in Tokyo. We were matching 'kanji' to our lonely planet information so we knew which station to hop off. (On that note I must say when back in Japan in 2005 I was amazed at how much English signage there was in the outer areas of Tokyo). We managed to not only find the studio but also all managed to purchase some amazing coloured stills which I still have and haven't had framed 18 years on! (ouch do the math for my age!)

All these anecdotes can't really convey everything we managed to experience on a daily basis with the sights, sounds, smells. We partied till late in the Rappongi district, we danced in Harajuku, we ate magnificently perusing everything from the classic Japanese pub full of drunken workers to an upmarket Indian restaurant. Experiencing 'Shabu Shabu' a traditional style of eating which is just sensational. To seeing plastic food displays in the window displays showing you what was on the menu (brilliant really) and an art form in itself. (First night in Tokyo we came across a place called 'California Pizza' and laughed our heads off when we saw the window display as it looked like different pools of vomit-Great pizza from memory!) As for photo's I took many, I had bought duty-free a Nikon SLR400 and mastered it whilst on the trip. I took slide as well as film.

Note: This is a card still in it's wrapping 18 years later. I bought it from 'The Loft' a very trendy/hip way ahead of it's time department store in Tokyo. God knows why I bought this card, I think I thought it was hilarious and had to have it! I wasn't anti marriage either. I have always wanted to give it to someone but it always felt it was too over the top and still unsure as to why I am hanging onto it...funnily enough this image brings back positive memories for all it's ugliness! It's certainly one of the stranger things I have bought back from my travels. I also had this classic photo taken of my friends and I on our travels that I have just turned the house up-side down looking for. Hence why this post hasn't been published for two days!!! Along the way I found the above card and many fantastic things I treasure BUT cannot unearth this photo....when it is found it will have it's own little commemorative post!
Note #2: I have noted that there were many times I have written about we - "'laughed'..'thought it was hilarious'...", I just wanted on the record that it was never out of disrespect. Putting it in context that for most students on the trip it was our first experience of traveling overseas. We were exhilarated by everything we experienced and so taken back by the beauty and surreal nature of being in a wonderful country such as Japan that we would respond quite spontaneously with laughter at the smallest wonders..it was quite wonderful in that respect.

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