This time last year i was getting drunk and sleeping on buses travelling across Europe. Now a whole twelve months later it’s all totally changed. I’ve been getting drunk and sleeping on trains in Japan. My parents must be so proud.
I’ve been a bit lazy recently. I haven’t been out on my mountain bike and the only new place i’ve ventured is Kamakura which is a small city south west of Tokyo on the coast that was, for a short period of time, the capital of Japan which means it’s littered with dozens of temples and shrines. There are some glorious old buildings and a huge bronze Buddha statue that has survived a tsunami, several typhoons and a few earthquakes in its time but still sits serenely among the trees and the tourists. Kamakura is also home to windsurfers, cheeky kites (the bird not the toy) and cute streets containing a multitude of shops hawking tat and traditional crafts in equal measure. Nice place.
There were also a massive amount of old people although there seems to be a large amount of old people everywhere in Japan. A lot has been written about Japan’s aging population and i confess to having read almost none of it. When you’re here though it does add to that mix and clash of expectations and reality. The expectation being that it’s an ultra hi-tech country full of lights and swishing trains and high speed everything. Which is largely true. It’s just also home to a shit load of grandparents all happily using all that hi-tech full of lights swishing stuff. Whilst falling asleep on a train.
There’s also loads of earthquakes as well. So many that i’ve got used to them. One woke me up last night and instead of being slightly freaked out or scared by it, as i was when i first got here, it just felt like an inconvenience as it was in the middle of the night. I never thought i’d think of an earthquake at 2 on the Richter scale in the similar way that i’d think of car alarm at 3am. But there are so many of them here that it just becomes part of life. It’s very rare that one rips up the ground and causes major damage and death so you become almost immune to them. It must be very strange though growing up in an environment where the possibility of earthquake, tsunami, volcano or typhoon could end it all quite quickly. Maybe it might explain a few other things as well.
It’s said that language reflects culture. Apparently, Intuits have several words for “snow”. The British have a variety of words for “drunk”. The Japanese have lots of words for “pervert”. Prostitutes, massages and love hotels are a part of every city every evening. They’re a horny bunch. And drugs may be highly illegal but alcohol and cigarettes are imbibed as if, well, almost as if a natural disaster could take you out at anytime.
In two weeks i’ll be back in England. In one month i’ll be back in Japan. I’m going home for Christmas but will return for more teaching in 2011. Have fun. See you soon.