Thursday, January 31, 2008

japan's wonderful englishes*

* with apologies to our dearly departed friend, gianluca di milano.

i've worked out a way to blog about the trip without boring everyone, including myself, senseless.

i hope.

i will pick a photo from the holiday and use it as a springboard to get myself started.

and let's start with japan - osaka to be precise, and creap.

"for relaxing coffee time your guest can enjoy its stylish design

stick creap will give you a splendid time"

creap is powdered cream that you put in your coffee, or tea. we saw this when we stayed at my japanese friend's parents' "retirement village" down near kobe. the place was called charming square, and let me tell you, no chance of even one bed sore in this place.

we stayed there a night in one of the guest apartments, it was very luxurious, and we visited the onsite onsen (japanese baths/hot springs) and the dining room, where the food was very kai-seki -traditional kyoto food, presented most beautifully.

in the onsen, i was surrounded by tiny naked old japanese women, one of whom was asking questions to me, through my friend mayumi. i hadn't bought a correct wash-cloth, and i was standing there with a tiny fabric skerrick of nothing, trying to remain as modest as possible while this cute little button of a 90-year-old was asking me about O-su-tu-ralia. you'd think my almost 3 years in japan in the early nineties would have sufficiently cultured-me-up enough to avoid the embarrassing gaijin gaffs that foreigners make in the land of the rising sun.

not so. it took about 3 hours of being in the country before i started feeling that old feeling again. big. awkward. clumsy.

we were there only 4 days or so. we packed in so much. we ate. we drank. we walked, oh god we walked. and we sweated in the humidity. we visited bearing gifts. we nodded. we bowed. princess told me she wouldn't "bow for anyone". then after a few hours of being in a land where everyone bows, she told me she was doing it without knowing, and couldn't stop herself. it's like that there.

we went crazy in a toy store and came home with a whole bunch each of tiny tiny miniature plastic things, like trays of sushi with miniscule chopsticks, all different types of food.

i even bought a plastic display case.

random diary excerpt from japan - friday 17-12-93


Stayed in front of the heater all day, reading Shogun. The descriptions of the courtesans and their "practices" are fascinating. One quote re:

Always remember, that to think bad thoughts is really the easiest thing in the world. If you leave your mind to itself it will spiral you down into ever-increasing unhappiness. To think good thought, however, requires effort... So train your mind to dwell on sweet perfumes, the touch of this silk, the tender raindrops against the shoji, the curve of this flower arrangemenr, the tranquility of dawn. Then, at length, you won't have to make such a great effort, and you will be of value to yourself...*

I like the idea of being simple and aesthetically aware. Japanese are very aesthetically aware, eg. hanami, moon viewing, ikebana, kimono, rock gardens etc.

It feels like the most civilised country on earth; everything is very ordered and precise. But I find it soulless: I like passion and a touch of chaos, emotion and energy. Japan is not like that for me...

Tonight I met Takashi at NHK. We took a taxi to Shinsaibashi, to Hozenji Suji, a famous street of traditional inns and restaurants - narrow cobbled paths, lanterns. It was gorgeous. Our restaurant was a well-known place - we had a private room upstairs and ate mini nabes, fried oysters, sashimi, flounder, wild duck. The food was delicious. After, Mr Ogami had to go home as he's playing golf early tomorrow. Takashi and I went to Hozenji Temple and ate a special dessert - sweet bean soup with mochi - which is said to bring married couples happiness (if shared together). **

At the temple, we prayed*** and I got a fortune. Takashi translated. It was full of warnings. To be careful when travelling. To be careful not to desire something beyond my control. That if I or a friend is ill, it would be difficult to cure. That if I try to take care etc etc I'll be rewarded with limited happiness.

Great. So I tied this piece of paper to the rope to improve my fortune. Then we went and played Pachinko, 1,000 YEN bought maybe 40 or 50 balls. They all disappeared pretty quickly. I saw some people with trays of balls under their seats. The professional Pachinkas (as they're called.)

Hitoshi called today and asked me if I'd sing at his wedding. I firmly declined. He asked me to make a speech so I said I'd do that. But god only knows why - token whitey? - and it'll probably all be Japanese people, don't know how many will be there or anything. I'll have to learn some appropriate Japanese phrases.

I'm not allowed to put water down the sink or use the shower. Damn. Some pipe problem. Did I write about this oilier? Yeah, I did. God I'm boring. I really wonder if anyone would ever manage to read all their way through the entirety of all my scribblings. I'm sure they'd commit seppuku about 1/2 way through.

* lesson here - do not be dismissive of clavell.

** at that time I was not married to Takashi. I can't even remember who he was, but probably a student of mine from NHK. I remember Mr Ogami. I'm reading this and wondering whether Takashi had hopes of a romance with me? If so, I was completely unaware at the time.

*** this would have been me being polite and "culturally immersed".


Another Outspoken Female said...

Strongest memory of a week in Japan in the mid 80's. In neighbourhood bath house in Tokyo, friend who lived their being of the male gender was on his side of the baths and I was all on my own with all these naked women and young children staring at everything I did. Nothing so off putting as having a 6 yo boy standing inches away from your unclothed pudenda having a damn good look at it!

MelbourneGirl said...

i can't match the boy and pudenda experience. but i did sprain my ankle, nude, in the sauna once and had a gaggle of very small women rushing off to get me ice etc.

ladyb said...

I want to go there so bad.

MelbourneGirl said...

i was thinking of you ladyb when i was keying that lovely clavell quote, about the soft raindrops against the shoji and the sweet perfumes etc.

very you.

have you been? all must go at some stage i believe.

Anonymous said...

Does paying ¥5 for a stick to poke naked Japanese Women in cages sound passionless (most probably souless, I agree with you on that)? Apparently that is a big attraction over in them there parts. Mind you, the Japanese do express and perceive passion in a totally different way to Westerners, they are more subtle (not including the above example). I guess that is one of the attractions of the place, understanding the subtleties of a totally different culture. I am sorry for my rant!

chips said...

I like reading your travel excerpts! I'd love to go there too.

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