This is the last entry in my Japan 2009 series. I’ve mostly written about historical landmarks and megapolises I visited. All were amazingly memorable experiences; however, they merely touched on extreme points on the Japanese continuum: its rich historical heritage and its modern urban present. I felt there was a missing link between these polar opposites, and on my last day I realized the bridge for this gap was right under my nose.
Some pleasant discoveries were made, not by getting there, but by getting lost. The irony was that my Japanese host’s rusty sense of direction got me exactly where I had envisioned myself to be in Kyoto.
Kinkaku-ji (Temple of the Golden Pavilion) was, by far, the loveliest spot on earth I had ever seen. My first glimpse of the imperial yellow temple, gleaming in the summer sun with its reflection shimmering on the placid pond, was a poetic vision – a scene of exquisite beauty that I could only describe as heavenly. Belinda Carlisle nailed it – heaven is a place on earth. And it was in Kyoto. But one man’s heaven could be another man’s hell.
A nightingale sings in Nijo-jo (Nijo Castle) – with every step you take. Centuries before the Twitter age, the Tokugawa shogunate already used tweets. This castle, built in the 17th century in Kyoto, is famous for its wooden floors that tweet – the uguisu bari (nightingale floor). When I got to Kyoto, it was the first place to wanted to see – and hear.
Tokyo Towel. No, not a cloth to cover your nakedness as you emerged from an onsen (a public hot bath). Just an example of the Japanese quirk of rolling the hard /r/ to a loopy /l/, as in that hilarious scene in Lost in Translation involving a befuddled Bill Murray and a demanding dominatrix. In my case, I got befuddled looks because I looked Japanese but couldn’t speak Nihonggo. Continue reading “Found in Translation”→
I survived Tokyo. Its crowds, its convoluted metro lines, its punishing summer heat. “There’s got to be a morning after,” goes the cheesiest song ever from a disaster movie. After a full day traversing Tokyo, I found that perfect morning after in Yokohama. Not that the day, or night, before was a disaster. It was just the most gruelling city tour I had ever done.