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Grasping Japan

April 23, 2010

Attentive readers, presuming I have any readers, might have noticed this blog was on hiatus, right after the first posts. A lousy start for a blog, but the reason behind it was the Holy Grail of worthy reasons: a 3 week trip to Japan. Somewhere over time the distant dream of going suddenly changed in a decisive aim. And with a combination of long advanced planning and last minute tweaking I went to Japan right in time for the first sakura blooming and back before the vulcanic ashes terrorised world flight traffic. 3 packed weeks that flew by too fast and leaved me wanting more. I’m still in the middle wether to post my entire travel report in this blog or not. The travel diary I kept is pretty extensive, but if any, this seems the best place for it. In meanwhile I’ll post a brief summary to claim my bragging rights.

Obligatory sakura shot

First I spent a week in Tokyo with trips to the snow covered Nikko, the peaceful Kamakura and Yokohama (with the awesome ferry terminal from Foreign Office Architects) and obligatory visits to Ginza, Ueno, Asakusa, Shinjuku, Ikebukuro, Harajuku, Shibuya, Tsukiji fish market, Akihabara and Nakano Broadway. Also, thanks to my excellent timing, I had the opportunity to go to the Tokyo International Anime Fair. TIAF finds place at Tokyo Big Sight, also home to the Comiket (always nice to spot places like this while reading Genshiken). It was pretty cool just being there amidst of the stands of anime production companies, tv studios and all things anime. I spent my time watching trailers and promo art, receiving tons of flyers and sometimes just following the stream of people. My lack of japanese knowledge probably costed me a few interesting interviews and announcements, but I was happy just strolling around absorbing the atmosphere. Otaku Review has listed the trailers from TIAF here.

Queing line for the International Anime Fair

Another two weeks went by traveling around Japan using the super organised and accurate train network. Our accomodation in Kyoto, Kanazawa and Osaka, all displayed the amazing japanese hospitality, service and hygiene. The food was almost always delicious, even with our low budget restaurant picks. (the fastfood gyudon might have been too low budget) Other visits included deer-overrun Nara, ninja town Iga-Ueno, Takamatsu on Shikoku island and a sunny day trip to Kobe. My travel buddies without a clue about the existence of anime whatsoever, marveled at the most daily japanese habbits, from the given ‘Irrashaimase’  in any store to the customary tea you get anywhere, the japanese bathing style, the shoe rules and how everyone always waits orderly in line (except little old ladies). I expected most of these thing, but still marveled with them. Accompanying total Japan rookies can be fun at times, but if I ever go back I want to take someone to whom i can say; “Look, a loli with a gintama backpack” and who doesn’t let me go to the anime fair, the ninja museum and the maid café on my own.

Posing as the kanji for big in front of the Akashi bridge in Kobe

My biggest regret is being a lousy photographer and missing out on Japanese night life. Both problems and some places I couldn’t squeeze in my tight schedule will be accounted for during my next trip, a new distant dream. I’ll start by saving money again. Because it sure was great and i’m completely sold.

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