Sunday, December 26, 2010

Back To Japan

When I was 17, I won an essay competition and won a free 10 day trip to Tokyo, Japan.  Prior to this, from the age of 14 I'd taken Beginner's Japanese lessons at school.  From a young age, I was fascinated by the oriental culture, both Chinese and Japanese.

All I remember about that trip, was that it was the last time I felt overwhelming happiness.  When I came back from that trip I received terrible AS results, several of my dreams dashed and mutilated and it felt like my destiny had been altered.

So, this trip.  I stayed with a host family for seven days, and had to go to a Global Village camp for three days.  My host family consisted of a mother, father, two older daughters, and two younger sons.  These siblings were rarely in the same place at the same time, usually staying at friends' houses during my stay, but maybe that was to accommodate me!  They were all lovely, I spent the most time with the youngest brother, who was very cute and troublesome!

They took me to several places around Japan, but I recall a few visits vividly:

We went to a fireworks display, and seriously you've never seen fireworks like Japanese fireworks.  It felt like the world was moving; they were so  loud and vibrant, and the colours, the span of these things...magnificent. 
We went to the Harajuku District, which is amazing, it's like the most urban/individual area...think the only thing close is Carnaby Street in London, and that pales in comparison to this place.  I met a group of 'urban' individuals and they were elated to see me; I smile remembering them now!  They all had afros or braids, and loved everything hip-hop culture.  And the Japanese teens were like walking anime characters; I would have felt plain in comparison but I had enough people pointing at me anyway.  

Ropponghi Hills, was a huge shopping/business area.  Amazing architecture, huge gaping roads that we had to scuttle across, and I remember there were bats that flew during the day.  You could hear their little leathery wings, and then see them move against the blue blue sky.  
My last day I remember we went to a shrine.  It was mahusive.  And totally calming.  I tell you, I didn't want to leave.  I wanted to bring out my incense and find a lodge nearby.

I went to several other places in Japan, my host family even took me to Tokyo Disneyland, which was awesomeeee, I remember buying a pink cowgirl hat vividly, and not understanding any of the instructions for the rides we got on.  However I also remember meeting American men who approached me and asked if I was aware of the bomb scare that had occurred in London during my vacation.  Thanks to this, we weren't allowed hand luggage on our flight back to the UK.

For three days I had to go to a camp with lots of teenagers from around the world; the camp was based at the bottom of Mount Fuji.  I went with four other students from the UK (we'd met before flying to Japan together).  The camp was located next to an American army base where they did demonstrate artillery practices frequently, and we were informed if we crossed the boundary lines we faced the danger of being shot.  (The above picture shows us in our 'safety zone'.  

Everyone at the camp was either very friendly or really funny; all the Japanese students loved us, and the students from New Zealand seemed more entertained by our British accents than the fact we came from the UK.  (For the record I do not sound 'posh' as I was informed repeatedly!)  We did lots of fun activities which included cooking noodle stir fries on an open grill, making flags, dance, sports, and arts and craft.  

However by the day I was leaving I remember I was terribly homesick, and missed eating the food I liked.  Plus I'd been attacked by Japanese mosquitoes and it looked as if I had developed a huge bicep in my right arm. 

Mission: Return To Japan

It's been in the back of my mind for years now.  I want to go back.  And not just once, but I feel like, if I don't go back soon, it will become one of those things I did, that had no real significance.  I am not some student who 'went to Japan once', like several of my friends have been to 'Africa' (can't flipping stand that, like Africa is a small country instead of a continent...old argument, please ignore).

My plan was, take Japanese at university, write to my host family, and go back in August.  It seems simple enough.  Except that I'm scared.  Don't really want to go on my own either.  I've never really planned a holiday with friends either, so the idea of being dependant on someone makes me feel fairly vulnerable.  Plus I haven't spoken to my host family in years, so something about the whole thing seems presumptuous, and uncertain.

However I've decided to send them a seasonal card and letter, complete with pictures, maybe a few of my sketchy hiragana and katakana symbols, and some form of present.  Hopefully I can get this packaged up and collected in time for them to receive it around New Years. =D


  1. Great post! I have never been to Japan, but you make sound exciting! The best wishes with your goals =)

  2. I hope you get to go again! I really would love to visit Japan :D cool post

  3. @S. Thanks, it's an amazing place, hope I can make it back! :p x

    @Liliai Me too, me too, it costs a lot though so I'd best get saving! x

  4. Aww I didn't know that you have come to Japan!!! :D As this blog was renewaled, I found the tag JAPAN and found this article. It's so lovely! Come back to Japan, we are willing to welcome you back! :D


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