Thursday, August 5, 2010

NB: I have found Japan.

Or, have found myself in Japan (more likely, given my navigational skills). Either way, here I am. In the five days since my departure, have progressed from New Zealand to Tokyo to Sapporo. The flight was uneventful - barely noticed time passing, preoccupied as I was with watching the entire first season of Glee. Turns out that an uninterrupted flow of show tunes and baby-daddy drama distracts entirely from the discomforts of coach class. Why is that I am always seated behind the shameless recliner? Is there something about my backstage presence that draws them backwards? Do I emit tangible magnetic attraction? Gravitational pull? Mystery abounds.

Stepping off the plane into Tokyo was like being buried in flannels. The air is thick as stew, hot and wet and cloying. Walked the length of the airport (same as length of New Zealand) behind a tiny Japanese child who skipped as she walked, the back of whose t-shirt read `Honey Love Closet`. In my time-warped state I could not decide what would possess someone to print this on a t-shirt. Finding myself now in a functional state (running at approx 70%), I am still unsure. It puts one in mind of the genitals of a female bear. Or something. At any rate, inappropriate when placed between the dainty shoulder blades of an Asian infant.

Did you know that the Tokyo airport comes equipped with a personal train to get you from different terminals? That upon arrival, your temperature is taken, and finger prints and photograph recorded? That it is inevitable, if you arrive with a planeful of New Zealanders, that the tall boy standing behind you in the customs queue will in fact have been hosted in the house of your best friend during a waterpolo tournament, and sparked adolescent interest leading to instant recognition some 7 years later? That despite clinical strength deoderant you WILL sweat enough to fill a canteen and slick your perfect fringe to your forehead? All of these things are proven truths about Tokyo airport.

Outside the terminal. Buried in yet more flannels. JET personnel assaulting you with fixed smiles every five metres. Sunglasses sliding down your nose, puddles in your bra, Wellington-style boots becoming individual foot spas. Bus ride. Air conditioning. Insurance forms. Who will benefit from my accidental death insurance, should I accidentally choke to death on a flannel? 50% Mum, 50% Dad. Forgive me Aravin, but I will not tempt you to homicide for yen of yen.

Keio Plaza. 26th floor. Views almost back to New Zealand (true). Shower. Shower again, this time cold. Then venturing out into the streets (more flannels), accosted with bright lights, bright voices, katakana, kanji. Order one beer. Arrive in a 1.5 litre bottle. Resign self to drunkeness. Prawns, scallops, dumplings. Photographs. Brief panic at being lost (despite being 5 mins walk from hotel. Unsuprising). Sleep.

The following two days: orientation coming out my ears. Had not realised how disorientated I had been. Can tell you all about culture shock. Driving in Japan (cannot drive in NZ, but). Having a baby on JET (thank goodness, life plan coming together). Eating in Japan (through mouth, same as home, boring). Sleeping teaching partyingcontraceptiondoctor`svisitscyclingcleaningtatamihidingone`s tattooonsensex/nosex. Then: freedom. Much beer, much food, Karaoke. Convincing rendition of Alejandro (no gun bra but cannot have everything). Men sleeping in streets, eating from hands, all cleanly shaven, freshly washed, well-spoken and polite. Mystery. Boy bleeding in street. Express concern. HIs friends reassure concerned gaijin (foreigner) `Is ok, he is in hell`. Good, relief. Edamame at 2am. Sleep (aside: have stained every pillow case since arriving in Japan bright red. Clear contradiction to assertion that this is natural hair colour. Problem).

Sapporo-bound. Casually clothed (much make-up though, obv. Cannot change self). Carrying own body weight in luggage (luggage = mainly clothes plus occasional hair bow). Starbucks in airport `Are you America?` ......`Yes, am` (aside: cannot for life of me find normal, right-inclined apostrophe. Japanese apostrophe`s drunk, leaning wrong way. Too much Sapporo). New experience during flight: cameras mounted on under-carriage of plane, showing real-time take off/landing. As if strapped to plane`s bum. As if large, terrifying Japanese crow. Disorientated (alas, after all that work at becoming orientated. Waste). Landed. Taxi ride. Constant attempted conversation by driver in Japanese. Much nodding, much smiling. Put on sunglasses, pretend to sleep. Buildings, roads, cars. On and on and on. Japan is big (who knew?).

Arrive: JICA. Some sort of student hostel. Small room, small bed. Am back in Weir House. Much retrogression today. Beer and chocolate and Jelly Beans from 7 Eleven. Feeling much more myself (require excess alcohol and sugar to be self? Problematic). Chat. Back to bedroom. Reread Secret History for nine hundredth time. One of only 6 books to make it to Japan. Worthy. Sleep. 12 hours, sleep.

Then: Move to apartment. Lengthy description thereof necessary (brief introduction: have found at least 15 futons in cupboard. Also, in pantry, approx 15 cans of creamed asparagus). More blogging later (promise, probably Monday. Weekend is for drinking). Now: orientation. Thank goodness, feeling positively directionless.


  1. Sounds like Lola. I wish Wellington was hot. Also, boy probably was in hell. Best that you left him alone.

  2. So good. Feel sweaty just reading it. This means your writing is quite good, cos my feet are still freezing from walking home from Sweet Mothers around three hours ago.