I’m going to Japan

Published Categorised as Japan, Travel 2 Comments on I’m going to Japan


(Image- Chion-in Temple Gate at Kyoto by Hiroshi Yoshida 1935)

This March I’m going to Japan for two weeks with my friend Vicky (also of Pen Fight zine distro), co-incid­ing with her 30th birth­day.

A little while ago, I won a compet­i­tion I’d entered at a food fair run by Japan Centre food halls.The top prize was two flights to Osaka cour­tesy of Air France KLM, five nights stay at the Hyatt hotel in Kyoto (way, way out of my normal budget), and a free tour of the Gekkeik­an Sake Brew­ery. The runners up got free sake. I’ve entered this kind of compet­i­tion before, but only ever won the free booze at best, so I was aston­ished to hear that I was the winner, and didn’t quite believe it was real until the whole trip was firmly booked yester­day. So a big thank you to Kim at Japan Centre (and also for the deli­cious free lunch at the company’s restaur­ant when I collec­ted the prize).

It seemed a shame to go all the way to Japan and only stay for five days, so we are going for two and a half weeks. Five days in Kyoto are firmly booked, and some time in Tokyo, Osaka and Hiroshi­ma is in the works (prob­ably via a train pass). One of my school friends (hi Sarah!) lived near Hiroshi­ma for a long time, work­ing as a teach­er, and she has a lot of recom­mend­a­tions of places to go, and I have quite a few other friends who have been to Japan before and who have recom­men­ded places. Top of the list are the temples and old build­ings in Kyoto, the Ghib­li Museum in Tokyo (if we can get tick­ets), and the rabbit island near Hiroshi­ma. Oh, and eating a lot, and taking a lot of photo­graphs.

So this isn’t just my travel plans, here’s some books from Japan I’ve read lately:

Sanshiro by Soseki Natsume

A pre WW1 coming of age story by Soseki Natsume of I am a Cat fame. Sanshiro comes from the coun­tryside of south­ern Japan to study in Tokyo and is baffled and over­whelmed by big city life and women. I partic­u­larly liked how a stand­ard love-triangle storyline was set up, and then deflated at the end by the fact the the woman in the triangle actu­ally had her own life going on and had arranged to get married to someone else without the two men even noti­cing seem­ingly.

In Praise of Shad­ows by Junichiro Taniza­ki

A strange but inter­est­ing little essay from 1933 about the aesthet­ics of Japan­ese build­ings, taking in toilets, why elec­tric lights are ugly, and why gold looks better under candle light. (As it’s from 1933, there’s also a weird self-hating racist bit, which made me sad).

You can read the whole thing for free online here:

The Life-Chan­ging Magic of Tidy­ing Up by Mari Kondo

The famous book about declut­ter­ing and tidy­ing (and possibly the only book I’ve read on the topic writ­ten from a Shinto-influ­enced view­point). Mari Kondo focuses on getting you to only keep the things you really want. A useful book for me, as I’m about to spend three months abroad after Christ­mas, and have been going through dejunk­ing my things before putting them into stor­age. (I shame­fully have 80+ unread books).

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  1. I’m sure I’ve also said this on Face­book but WOW, I still can’t believe you won a trip to Japan! Amaz­ing, and very well deserved. I hope you have a fab time!

    1. Yeah, this is just not a thing that happens to people. Winning the runner up prize of booze, yes. Free holi­day, no. I’ll never win anything again.

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