Coming up to 5 months of travelling this world of ours and the travel blues have kicked in. Having read about them I assumed it would never happen to me especially having been in the army and travelling overseas was part of the job. However Japan is a strange country and I think that this is one of the reasons for the homesickness and the need to kick it out of my system is hard. Whereas most of the other countries I have been to, you meet a lot of fellow travellers who are also travelling alone or in two's and going on long travels of around 3-6 months and seeing lots of countries. Japan on the other hand attracts mainly people who are here just for the country on holiday for a week or 2, so usually have an actual itinerary of what they want to do and not really into talking to random strangers in the hostel. Also after a while of travelling from city to city and looking at yet another ‘important’ temple/shrine they all seem to look the same, with high rise buildings all over the place. I guess that with having no idea of what I was going to do once I got here didn’t really help, and even with the enthusiasm of Abi who I met in Tokyo didn’t rub off on me! Couple all this with sore feet that seem never to heal with infections and cracked heels, a strange confusion of the Japanese people as a nation and then a break up of a 2 year relationship due to the travelling and being so far away from UK it can get a bit down!
Anyways on with the blog and after finishing my last blog I decided to hit downtown Nagoya with its bright lights and found an Irish bar, I say it was an Irish bar but the owner was Japanese and the only thing that made it Irish was the name of the bar and the fact he was selling Guinness. The place was small and you could only sit at the bar itself and next to me was a very drunk Japanese woman who got very excited when she found out I was English, but the happiness turned to bitterness when she explained in pretty good english that she was a businesswoman of sorts and she had travelled to both Europe and Australia for her company and was amazed at the equality of females there compared to Japan, she ranted on for about an hour telling me that Japan men still look at woman as second class citizens and do not approve of them working doing male jobs. She was still drinking copious amounts of alcohol when she then decided to bare her sole and tell me of her 3 year affair with a married guy from Wales of all places, who was 30 years older then her, who made a journey to Japan every month or so! It was when she started to ask for my opinion of what she should do that I decided that it was time to go. It’s when I hear of how behind the times in equality that Japan is that it hits home that the country is still in the dark ages no matter how technologically advanced they are. Another story that I heard while in the hostel was from an American how worked in Tokyo and was on a break from the city and he told me that Japanese still rely heavily on faxes. He said that he has sent so many emails out over the year but companies will ring him up and ask if he can send a fax instead. In the early days he would try and explain that if they print out the email it would be the same as the fax, but NO they want a fax. So much for embracing the future….
The next couple of days was spent mulling around the local area and not doing a lot and I knew it was time to go and head for Osaka, which was a city that I sort of looked on a map of Japan and thought it looked big enough to have stuff to do. An overnight bus later and I was dropped off in the middle of no where with no directions of where to go, of course the driver spoke no English! So a 2 hour walk around at 6 in the morning trying to find the subway and the hostel, to find that I couldn’t book in till 3. I didn’t really care as I was tired and hungry so dumped my bags in what looked like a holding area and left a note on the empty reception desk and headed into city centre where I met up with Abi, my Tokyo tour guide who was on her way up to Kyoto but stayed on for a couple of hours to have a coffee and a catch up. After saying farewell to her it was back to the hostel and I was allowed to book in and go to my room where I stayed for 2 days. My feet have been a problem from leaving Indonesia and to be honest I have not rested them properly so I needed a couple of days on my back just to get some normality out of them and spent the time catching up with emails, watching films and generally just chilling to the max. The hostel itself was a strange little place which was obviously the cheapest in town! It was originally an arts students hangout place where they would come to paint, sculpture, drink and take copious amount of drugs! The owner had bought the place about 2 months previous and had big plans for it but in the meantime he had done it up as best as he could and to me it was a proper backpackers place with character. Air Hostel is probably the most authentic hostel with an owner who was Japanese that had travelled round Australia and New Zealand (catching a twang of the accents) that was passionate in backpacking and travellers. He had the most up to date information on Osaka lying around and it was the first time since I had arrived in Japan where I could plan a trip around the city without relying on Trip Advisor. Osaka is one of the biggest cities after Tokyo and as usual there are the temples and shrines all over the place, however there was a castle! I had to go and see it, it looked amazing but once inside and you saw the lift going from the bottom floor you knew it wasn’t authentic castle. No way would they have had lifts in the 14th century, they had no plastic buttons to press for a start! Then you discover that the original castle had been bombed during the second world war and it was rebuilt to the exact specifications of the original, except there was no lift in the original!! Hmmmm it sort of changed my view on the place, because if they had put a lift in that wasn’t meant to be there what else had they conveniently put in. I spent the next 2 days just wondering round the city randomly looking at things that were in the pamphlets the hostel had made and it didn’t strike me as being any different from the 2 previous cities I had been to. Nothing really jumped out as saying it was an individual city with its own character. I’m sure if I had said that to Japan obsessed Abi, she would have slapped me, but maybe thats the travellers blues kicking in?
Another overnight bus ticket was bought and I was on my way to Kyoto. The only reason for going there was I heard it was the 2nd biggest tourist spot after Tokyo for foreigners to visit, plus Air Hostel recommended that I go. A hostel was booked and yet again I discovered that Abi was there and I knew she would be my tour guide again. In fact she was there when I got off the train to meet me and we made plans to do stuff. As Kyoto is one hell of a busy place for tourists then you can imagine getting a hostel was hard. In fact my first night the only place available was a hotel! A proper hotel and that was £40 which was 4 times my usual budget for accommodation but thats where I stayed and as it was styled in a typical Japanese fashion ie I slept on the floor. Abi came with me as she wanted to see my room and was a little bit jealous and my first day was spent in Kyoto in a hotel room watching Despicable Me 2 with her having never seen the film! Sunday the next day was spent moving myself onto the otherside of the city to a hostel that was within my price range! Thank god… and I manage to get out and about round the area to see the sights and yet another tower and more shrines but the weather was not the best. July and August is the rainy season and didn’t I know it, even though the Japanese have an obsession with umbrellas, even to the point of looking at me walking around in shorts and t-shirt in the rain without one. I’m from England, it rains all the time there so i’m used to it! The next day was following Abi, after she got back from an arts exhibition that was closed… every tourist thing seems to close on a Monday in Japan… but we ended up in a monkey park up a steep hill where wild monkeys are left to there own thing but as tourists you are allowed to feed them from behind wire meshing but it was amazing to see mothers with babies and how they interacted with other mothers. Then off to the bamboo forest which was astounding looking at the bamboo trees with a single path going through the middle of it. Picture perfect! Tuesday was another day where I had to move due to the hostel being booked out and I had left it till the last moment to ask to extend my visit but they were kind enough to find me another hostel that was still cheap and I moved yet again. After finding the place (not easy) I wandered back to Kyoto station to meet up with Abi who had gone to a Komodo fitting session and then decided to buy it. There she was dressed as a Japanese girl and totally looking the part. If only they had the shoes big enough for her feet then she would have been complete. Unfortunately it was a short chat as she wanted to go and see a Japanese show which involved lots of stuff that did not float my boat so a night in the hostel catching up with soaps…. is this still part of my travel blues?
Next day was a day that I had to go and meet Abi to say a final farewell as she was off to Tokyo for her last 2 days before flying back to UK. It was a bit emotional for me as I had met someone that was passionate about a country and had tried her best to give me the same passion and it nearly worked! But also we had a good laugh getting to know each other, but as always with travelling you have to say goodbye to all you meet. I had promised myself that once Abi had left then I was going to spend another 2 days on my back with my feet up and finally get them back to a decent shape, which is where I am now. For 2 days I have been watching lots of films, including Lost in Translation about an American trying to understand Japan and then loving it! I have a plan of what I’m doing next and I’m just hoping that I can shift these nasty things in my head saying that UK isn’t that bad and I should go back. I’ve still got a long way to go even if I’m complaining about Japan a lot!
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