July 08, 2005
Chris et al at BnA have super-kindly agreed to have a link on the BootsnAll blogs page pointing to the new home of 'Runcible Spoon'.
The link to the new, post-trip blog (about life as a travel addict trapped in Sydney) is under the 'Oceania/Antartica' category.
I like that. Sounds suitably remote!
June 28, 2005
For anyone who stumbles across this blog and wonders what the hell happpened next, the answer is here, at Runcible Spoon.
Please come on over, say hello, talk travel or any old whatnot - I look forward to seeing you over there!
Oh my goodness! So much has happened, it's hard to know where to begin.
When I attempted to log-in to write this entry, I realised I was all rusty about what my username and password were - now when THAT happens, you KNOW you've left it too long between entries!
In short, though, this entry comes to you from the 'Other Side' of the RTW experience. Yes, it's true - the unthinkable has happened, and the trip is at a close.Continue reading "Welcome to reverse culture shock"
May 22, 2005
Just by way of apology, I wanted to say that I have been unable to post for the past little while due to a server crisis that befell the fabbo crew at BootsnAll.
It seems to have been fixed now: hence the flurry of new posts and photos below.
If anyone's had trouble posting comments over the last little while, that was related to the same shenanigans.
Anyway, 'all better now!' as one's mum would say. Welcome back!
May 21, 2005
There’s acres of fake tan and miles of russet-blonde locks on the young women here in Osaka. It’s Japan’s second biggest city, and so much more besides. Compared to mild, tender-to-the-bite Kyoto (tailor-made to please tourists), Osaka seems insanely busy and madly crowded. I prefer it almost instantly.
In addition to the droves of Japanese ‘California girls’ and ‘American-style teens’ who congregate here, Osaka’s also known across Japan as a capital of basic, tasty eats, and of gluttony.
Octopus ball sellers abound and okonomayaki stands are everywhere. The entwined scents of shaved bonito and gooey mayo are heavy on the city’s breath.
In the central pedestrian malls that are at Osaka’s heart everybody’s chowing down on something salty and delicious, strolling about electrified by the city’s vibe.
But amidst the throng of consumers and the press of flesh, I start to feel disturbed. Alone.Continue reading "Day Eight: The Mechanics of Desire"
May 20, 2005
May 19, 2005
We had a date at 12.00pm sharp today, and we couldn't be late.
Our date was for lunch at a restaurant that's nameless to us as we can't read Japanese. It's tucked away down the thin alleyway of Nishiki Market, the warren of fruit, veg, fish and sundries that the locals affectionately call 'Kyoto's pantry'.
All I know is that it's foodie heaven.
The restaurant sits on upstairs on the first floor of a building that's squeezed shoulder-to-shoulder with its market neighbours. The ground floor's given over to the most enticing display of vegetables and herbs that I've seen here. Fat, lustrous eggplants glow like purple embers, and there are blood-red carrots, which turn sugar-sweet when cooked, heaped in vast, knobbly middens.Continue reading "Day Six: A Gastronomic Adventure (or kindly pass me the mucous, please)"
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May 18, 2005
I can't explain it - I won't even try. Plastic food is a BIG concept here, but this spacecraft giving birth to baked beans is just in a realm of its own.
Somehow, in all the stereotyped images of Japan that lodged in my head over 26 years, thoughts about homelessness were nowhere to be seen. Why does no one mention Japan's homeless - whose numbers do not seem inconsiderable - when waxing lyrical about this intriguing country?
Both in Fukuoka and here in Kyoto, the reasonably large numbers of people (mainly - but not exclusively - men) sleeping rough have shocked and surprised me. They congregate near the rivers running through both towns, living under flimsy tarpaulin humpies or sleeping on public benches.
Many lead distinctively 'Japanese'-seeming lives, if you take 'Japanese' as a synonym for order, structure and whatnot gizmos. The tarpaulin shanties are decked out with reused bits of wire which serve as clotheslines and salvaged pegs to pin things up neatly. Every beaten, battered belonging has a place, and most likely a carefully thought-out container in which it's housed.
Furthermore, whilst talking about the darker side if things here, Pachinko Parlours have also shocked and depressed me. (Pachinko is usually described as being a sort of 'upright-pinball-machine').
The name sounded so cool, I thought they would be gleaming and animated and full of über-cute Japanese things. Instead, when the opaque doors of a Pachinko Parlour slide open, a cacophany of noise issues forth (a bit like an automatic carwash and a thousand vacuum cleaners mixed together) and you see a slump-backed array of people sitting on tiny stools under big, blinking gambling machines. Many are grey-haired, and look defeated and wrung out.
I had no idea the cool-sounding 'pachinko parlour' I'd been exoticising was effectively just a Japanese pokie arcade.
May 17, 2005
Tired day, rising earlyish to open the sliding shutters and enjoy the maple-syrup coloured slanting sunshine as it hits the futon. We leave today for Kyoto.
The ryokan owner materialises as we're going, and we have a very J-exchange wherein we thank him for a wonderful stay, and he replies, 'Oh, no, it is a very traditional ryokan ... it might have been inconvenient for you. I am so sorry ...'
When we robustly assure him that it is fabulous and we can't wait to come back, his face cracks open like a fresh quail's egg: 'Really?' he beams at us, seeming genuinely thrilled.
'Oh, yes,' he continues wistfully, 'you mean you will return some day...' He trails off in a sad-happy reverie, like we've all just stepped out of the brushstrokes of a poem.Continue reading "Day Four: Geisha and a Bullet-train"