October 1st, 2023Just sayin’…
By Donna Kelly
Konnichi wa. Finally heading back to Japan after quite a few years away. Well, not until April but time does fly.
I reckon it’s been a good five years – with Covid mixed up in there – since I last arrived in the land of the Rising Sun and I really miss it.
I lived in Japan for about three years in my early 20s and just fell in love with the place. I would call it my spiritual home but I am not sure if you are allowed to say that now. You can’t say you have a spiritual animal – only indigenous people can claim that, or so I believe.
I don’t know if this will still happen but the first hint of being “home” is the smell of cigarette smoke in the airport. Yes, inside the airport. Japan must be, or was, the last bastion of smoking inside. Now I don’t like cigarette smoke but it just triggers something. As I said, that home feeling.
Then there are the people. Love them. They know how to have a good time, are friendly and always ready to offer directions, a random umbrella or something from their home you have mentioned you like. I found that one out the hard way.
Oh, next is food. I know a lot of people who think Japanese food is all about raw fish but it is so much more than that. Soft, white bread sandwiches with no nutritional value at all, iced coffees so cold you get an ice-cream headache and so many things on sticks. Stick foods are so underrated. And if you really want to try a few different things, head to the basement of your local supermarket. Lots of free snacks to tempt you.
Then there’s the booze. Asahi Super Dry is my beer of choice but I don’t mind a nice cold Sapporo either. Tried a lot of them when I visited the Sapporo factory in Hokkaido many years ago. And the sake. One-Cup Sake is a wonderful invention – the perfect size and it just heats itself up somehow. (Even though drinking hot sake is a little gauche these days…) Once, again, head to your local department store but go up to the roof for an affordable beer hall. Like a year-round Oktoberfest.
Accommodation could be a bit hit and miss in the old days but now it’s all pretty modern unless you choose a ryokan or inn for the experience. Do that and you will probably find yourself sleeping on a futon mattress on a tatami floor and exercising your thigh muscles over a squat toilet. But all good fun. Well, the squat toilet on the shinkansen (bullet train) was interesting. Trains do move side to side quite a bit.
This time, to shake things up a bit, Kyle and I are taking our 13-year-old grand-nephew from New Zealand. Hmmm. Here’s the short version. The nephew came out to visit last autumn, on his own, and we hit it off. All three and then one night Kyle went to bed a bit early and the nephew and I stayed up a bit later, chatting. I may have had a glass of wine, or two. And I asked innocently where he would most
like to travel and he said “Japan”. And I said “we can take you” and he said “great”.
And while I forgot about the conversation the next thing we had the call from New Zealand about how excited he was to be going to Japan with his aunt and uncle.
Oh well. Just a few extra fares. And I do think it is going to be a lot of fun introducing a teenager to a whole new culture. And he’s still a really nice teenager – no angst happening yet. So all will be well. We are going to start some Facetiming early next year to get him and Kyle up to speed with a few Japanese phrases. Konnichi wa (hello), oyaho (good morning) and arigato (thank you). Kyle already has beeru ippon kudasai (one beer please) followed after a few by o’terai wa dochira desu ka (where is the toilet?) down pat.
Honto ni, tanoshimi ni shiteimasu. Just sayin’…