Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Japan #8 - Love Hate Love

(At the end of August/beginning of September I took a pleasure trip to Japan. I meant to have all the blog postings done in the first week, I'm now hoping to have it done within 90 days of the trip.)

I should clear something up: why am I such a minor league otaku (i.e. Japan fan boy)? First and foremost, I'm a sucker for eye candy and no one cranks out eye candy like Japan. I can stare at Anime or walk around a crowded Japanese city all day. I can't describe it very well, but its like a massage for my brains vision center as it repeatedly tries to take in more information than can possibly be processed.

Secondly, lets face it, outside of the English speaking world, most places suck. The only place that bats in the same league is Japan. Japan long ago showed up the economies of Western Europe and it is way safer to live in than the U.S.

But, thirdly for all its success, Japan sucks too. Racism still abounds, teenage girls pimp themselves out for fancy jeans, new ideas are poo-poo'd, the management structure is often ridiculously stiff, the economy has sucked for more than a decade, the place is undergoing a demographic implosion, corruption, etc. But would Japan be the same place without these aspects? I tend not to think so. In this manner, Japan is a knot that can never be untied.

Anyway, continuing on, after Hiroshima, my Japan trip turned into a little bit of a blur. We next paid a visit to Kyoto, but I was cruising on auto-pilot, taking pictures so that I could soak in the photos later since I barely remembered being at these places, even while I was at them. Kyoto was also where various aspects of Japanese culture started to get me down. (As a matter of fact, I was enough of an ass in Kyoto that I decided to note it in my journal so that I wouldn't delude myself into thinking I was Captain Suave) . Also at this point I determined that I wasn't going to enjoy the trip much while it was going on. I knew that afterwards, the power of nostalgia would make the uncomfortable events good, and the good events great.

We walked around the fancy alleys, went to a tea ceremony and checked out a lot of cool looking shrines. However, I want to point out two things that I most definitely did not care for. First up was the geisha show that featured different forms of classic Japanese entertainment. About halfway through the show they said they were going to put on a performance of an art form that was mooched from China. While the Chinese abandoned it several hundred years ago, it kept going in Japan. I figured that if the Chinese dumped it and the Japanese continued tuning it lo these many years, that it must either be quite spectacular or some thing so nasty that even classic Chinese culture had given up on it. Unfortunately for me, it was the latter. The show featured a guy (I think) doled up in a weird costume who was dancing staggering to some of the worst instruments that Asian culture has to offer.

Make it stop!

The closest equivalent I could come to the noise the musicians were generating was that of a sack of cats rolling down a cliff. I'm sorry I'm too lazy to look up the name of this art form, but avoid it at all costs!

Second up is the shrine of 300 Buddhas (or whatever it's called). First, imagine you are in a huge musty attic in a house that's several hundred years old and is lit only by creepy indirect light. Then imagine it is filled to the brim with ultra creepy, multi armed Buddhas.

A hello to arms

Then on top of that, it also has statues of gods whose glass eyes have deteriorated to that of a floating corpse. As you might imagine, I was creeped out beyond belief and couldn't go through it (am I the only one who has nightmares about multi-armed deities coming to life? Guess so...). (As a plus, it was at this time I went into my first and only urban Japanese grocery store where the drinks cost more than the friggin vending machines. What gives with that?)

How about some pics? Now I did take pictures of the Golden Temple and whatnot, but there's enough of those on the Internet already; so here's some of my not so impressive shots:

To look at Internet pictures of Kyoto, you'd think it's some ancient Japanese panacea, while in actuality, most of it looks like the shot above.

I added a book to my hotel rooms selection, see if you can figure out which one it is!

This building houses (among many other things) Kyoto's train station. The extreme size of this building is impossible to convey through photos.

The Japanese seem to have some taboo about Lawn mowers. The school play fields that I saw were all dirt.

Sorry folks, but I didn't want to pony up 10 bucks to see what 'Collon' candy tasted like.


A.C. said...

I've never been to Japan (seeing as I don't have enough money to stay there over 48 hrs), but I have heard wonderful things about it :-)

Anime does rock...it's so pretty, but I don't think it's the only reason to visit JApan ;-P

Great blog though, and I like the photos :-)

Anonymous said...

Next visit, drop me a line. Sometimes it's nice to get off the beaten track.

Collon is tasty, but it's not nearly as good as ASSE.

- Justin

Evil Sandmich said...

That's a tempting offer Justin.
And if for some god awful reason you find yourself in Cleveland, I extend the same offer :)