Boku no Hosomichi

(Additional emotion to accompany reading can be found here)
And thus we come to the end of my journey and this blog designed to record it. After Hong Kong I met an English friend of old and a relatively recent Japanese host, but the events and photos from that week shall remain on other platforms in order to preserve some semblance of integrity in this one.
Although this journey to Narita Airport is one of reflection, I shall do my best to avoid too much whimsy (although I can make no promises). I do not intend to return with an overly romantic middle-distance gaze (any more than I already do) and a conviction that no one could possibly grasp the profundity of a six month city break, and I suspect that many lessons learned will become far more obvious upon my actual return and starting at university.
It would be foolish, however, to pretend that nothing has come out of this trip. My Japanese has improved from some theoretical basics to conversational ones, I am now competent with chopsticks and have been fully converted on the viability of enormous shower rooms and heated, water-jetting toilets. I have made many friends, most of them far more multilingual than myself, from all over the world, who I trust I can call upon should I need to go into business in Holland, listen to some truly bizarre music at Penguin House or do just about anything north of Tokyo.
As I watch the city change steadily into countryside outside my window I realise just how attached I have become to this at times scarily odd country with all its societal flaws (cynicism is just one way to ease the pain of departure), horrifying insects and bewildering cultural revelations, and just how little of it I would have been able to experience without the language skills I had when I arrived and continued to develop. I suppose Koichi et al at ToFugu as well as my teacher Yuka Isaacs deserve special mentions in this department for helping me to get some sort of grounding before I stumbled over here way back in January.
My destination draws near. I am superlatively glad I took the opportunity to experience a place so different from home (although it scarcely feels so now) and an already planning my return after university. I advise in the strongest terms anyone even vaguely considering a similar venture to do so. You will not regret it.
Until next time,

Jack

Advertisements

Bigger Chopsticks

JKR_3094

Looking back over the penultimate week of my travels, I find that, despite Hong Kong’s immensity and interestingness, the experience and memories stemming from it are mainly culinary in nature. Therefore, allow me to begin by briefly listing the animals (and parts therein) which I have eaten for the first time (actually or effectively) over the course of this past week with those tree-trunks they call eating utensils in this country:

  • Abalone
  • Crab
  • Razor clam
  • Normal clam
  • Scallops
  • Oysters
  • Chicken feet
  • Pork intestine
  • Pork kidney
  • Parts of an unidentified fish’s face
  • Mantis shrimp
  • Very strong vegetabley tea
  • Cane sugar syrup

Although this was interspersed with various more regular meats, coming from a life that one could hardly be called seafood-focused I had some adapting to do when faced with a large central plate of slimy salty things and an innate need to prove myself as the only foreigner in a restaurant full of locals.

JKR_2943

Speaking of locals, I found myself reacquainted with a number of borders from back at
school. It makes sense geographically, but was still rather disconcerting for both parties. Thankfully English was rather more comfortable for them, as I had gotten rather too well-practiced at a blank stare and half-smile at mealtimes to make up for my total lack of Cantonese.

Effigies of the possessions of the deceased to be burnt at funerals

Effigies of the possessions of the deceased to be burnt at funerals

When not eating or sleeping I wandered the streets of the city with my old friend and guide Simon, being shown places the names of which I cannot remember, most of which were (deliberately) somewhat grotty, intriguing and mildly intimidating. Hong Kong is comprised almost entirely of malls, very tall, thin blocks of flats and markets. We spent most of our time in the latter, coming across all sorts of bizarre and very culturally specific items for sale.

Despite (or perhaps because of) the myriad experiences that found me here, I feel Tokyo calling once more and look forward to being back in a country where food is eaten out of plates rather than bowls with unnecessary spoons and people don’t talk on the train.

JKR_3077

On the Road

JKR_0060I never really considered that Tokyo could become the comfort zone out of which I would have to venture at some point, and yet here it is. About a third of my worldly posessions have been stuffed into a backpack and I have begun my month-and-a-bit long journey around the country and out of it, leaving the relative comfort of a fixed address and living companions.

As yet it could go either way whether this will lead to more or less posting here. The plan is to work my way up the east coast, through Fukushima and past Sendai to the house of my friend in Tohoku, after which I will spend a week in central Hokkaido wandering around mountains and decidedly Essexian fields before flying down to Osaka and working my way back to Tokyo from there. After that it’s Hong Kong and a final stop off in the capital to catch my flight home.

Thus off I stagger, rather more heavily laden than Matsuo Bashō when he began his epic journey. At least I won’t have to cook.

Adieu

The bags have been packed, the Japanese crammed and a slightly uncomfortable number of tears shed. Indeed, the time has come for me to leave this teeming womb of royal kings (cue Jerusalem) and embark upon the journey which this blog is designed to record.

I was planning a jaunty photo of myself, hunched over a fast-dying laptop and munching on a slightly discounted blueberry muffin, if not only to prove to you readers that you do, indeed have the right blog. Alas, you’ll just have to trust me. Photos of my living circumstances will be posted as soon as I can reasonably excuse myself from my new housemates (whether this will be a simple or arduous task time will tell), so if any of you happen to be on Skype at three o’clock in the morning UK time, by all means give me a ring. Hopefully I will be almost unrecognisable due to my supreme fluency in conversing with my new companions.

The flight leaves in a couple of hours at the time of going to press, so there is still technically time to pull out. However, I suspect my parents would be just as distraught to find me back on their doorstep for another six months as there were to find me leaving it.

Look after yourselves and keep in contact.

Jack