Sunday, 2 December 2012
You know the most ridiculous thing about these series of blogs is the fact that I keep calling them "Psychedelic Microwaves: Japanese tour! Day" etc. We have now played all the shows we were going to play, all 2 of them. Apart from that we have just been tourists, which is fine.
I'm writing this in Koyasan; one of the most holy places in Japan. It houses quite alot of Buddhist temples and not much else. We were in Ise, (also one of the most holy places in Japan, but for Shinto), for a few days until yesterday. We left Tokyo on the 27th of November, not a day too soon. That's not to say I didn't enjoy the place. I did! 2 weeks was definitely long enough though.
Our first gig was at Nana Hari; a tiny little place with great character.We played last. We played with Samm Bennett and Tokuhisa William Kotaro. We also played as a 3 piece. A friend of Max's; Ben played guitar with us. The audience (all 2 of them not including the other artists, the venue owner and Max) seemed to enjoy it! Skye loved it but I was feeling a bit weird about it so I don't really remember it too well. Maybe it was stage fright or something. Who knows! Not me!
Our Second gig was at a place called Pool. We played first. We managed to get a projector that would work with Skye's laptop. We couldn't get the one at Nana Hari to work :*( . I put together some videos we took at the Osaka aquarium of jellyfish and played them at 1/4 speed. As you can imagine it was mesmerising. I felt remarkably better about that night's performance, but alas Skye didn't. Can't win 'em all.
I sold the guitar I bought for way less than what I payed for it and left Tokyo on the night of the 27th still hideously hung-over, nauseous, but relieved to be going somewhere far far away.
In Ise we hired some bicycles for the first time since Kyoto and rode and rode and rode. Through the hills and tunnels through mountains and forests and little villages and along the beach. We saw the wedded rocks (Meoto Iwa) and Ise Jingu (the oldest and most important Shinto shrines in Japan). Ise was, in a word, pretty fucking good.
Today was our first full day in Koyasan. We went hiking. We saw numerous temples and monks. I was very impressed. Tomorrow morning we are getting up at 5am to see the morning ceremony (Otsutome) at Okunoin Kobodaishi Gobyo (The Mausoleum of Kobo Daishi Kukai - the founder of Koyasan about 12 centuries ago). Then who knows! Not Me! On the day we leave (the day after next) we will be going to some kind of great Onsen a couple of hours drive from here. I'm looking forward to that! Then we have 4 nights in Osaka, and Arriva Derche Japan! as they say...
We extended our stay in Malaysia by nearly a week so we could go to Penang and eat lots of Mie Goreng on the beach. So... sucks to be you I guess.
Thursday, 15 November 2012
So its 3:14am, I'm in a Denny's just outside Sengoku station in Tokyo. My hostel is quite a way away. It would probably cost 4 or 5 thousand yen for a taxi, that's about 50 or 60 Australian dollars. I'm waiting here for the trains to start running again. We had dinner somewhere near Nogato, we managed to get to Ikebukuro before we ran out of trains. We decided to walk it, we thought it would probably take about 2 hours. We’ve come about a third of the way. My feet were starting to hurt so I thought I'd give them a rest. My boots were not made for walking. Denny's has a strange charm to it, it's kind of tacky, well it's an American style diner, with very Japanese meals, and really nice desserts, the lighting is easy on the eyes and the light smooth jazz in the background is easy on the ears. The fact that I'm in here, warm, with coffee, about to order pancakes, and not outside walking km after km in bad boots makes it extraordinarily appealing.
It seems like walking endlessly by the side of the road, either due to bad directions/map reading or just being clueless or something, is becoming a bit of a trend on this trip. Apart from one particular roadside trek in Kyoto, we've usually taken it in our stride... please pardon that pun, I couldn't control myself. I mean, I'm clearly a little bit out my mind. You know my current situation, please forgive me...
My fondest memory of roadside meandering with Skye was when we were in Malaysia. We got the bus from Kuala Lumpur to Kuala Selangor. I'd looked at the map and had it imprinted in my mind, and on my phone. We followed the directions exactly, in the pouring tropical rain. We were actually loving it. We had to walk alongside a busy highway on the grass verge. We saw mudskippers. We came to a little fishing town, kids riding motorbikes etc. the roads got smaller, the likelihood of our hotel being where the map said it was diminished quickly. The rain did not. We asked for directions and found we were on the wrong side of the river. The map was totally wrong. Our spirits got low. We saw a couple of monitor lizards. They were magnificent. We pressed on. We had a man in a car try to tell us he was a taxi, as he casually pointed toward a sticker on his door that had the word gladiator on it. Needless to say we did not get in the gladiators car. We made it to the hotel eventually, everything soaking wet, passports included.
It’s situations like that and the one I find myself in now that make travelling that much more interesting. You experience where you are more than you ever could on the subway. Speaking of which, the time has come for me to get into an underground tube to take me home to bed. My coffee has been drunk, my pancakes eaten, my feet well rested. Goodnight.
(Written on the 12th Nov.)
So since the last entry we have been in Kyoto. Very quiet, very peaceful. I'm settling in to Japan. I'm learning a few phrases to get me by. The latest one: ‘ichi nichi ken o kudasai' (I’d like a one day ticket please) is very handy. I think when I first arrived in Osaka I was a bit stunned trying to take everything in. A week or so has passed since then and I'm able to see a little more clearly. Is all this extreme politeness genuine, or a forced social convention policed by guilt? I'm not sure, but a week ago I wouldn't have considered the latter.
We went to Tōji temple yesterday in the rain. It was wonderful. Tōji temple contains about 4 main structures as far as I can tell. 3 large halls and Japan's tallest 5 tier pagoda, all originally built in the late 8th century. The larger buildings have all burnt down once and the pagoda 4 times. It’s all very impressive, inside the 'Kō-dō' hall there is a large display of 21 Buddhist statues arranged according to the Mik-kyō Mandala described in the main sutra of Esoteric Buddhism. All brought over from China over a thousand years ago. What impressed me the most was a coin donation box with 5 or 6 wooden slats on top. The box must have been quite old considering the wear on the slats, all caused by small pieces of metal dropping a very short distance. I would have taken a photo, but photos were not allowed. I managed to take a short video of the display in the room anyway. Don’t judge me.
There is much to like about Kyoto. We rode on some bike rides around the city and by the main river that runs through town. To sum the place up in a few words, old, serene and idyllic.
Tonight we take an overnight bus to Tokyo. I'm a bit afraid. We are also going to be finally playing some shows!! Which I'm quite excited about. Tomorrow I'm going guitar shopping as I didn't want to take mine on a plane. I’m hoping I can find a decent second hand one for not too much money.
Until next time, sayoohhhh-nara!
Sunday, 4 November 2012
Yes, this is the first part of the tour log; day 6. We arrived in Japan yesterday.
Yes, day 6. We had 4 days in Malaysia. I count the beginning of the tour as the day we left Australia.
Malaysia was good. We saw some.. a lot of monkeys. We went into some really great and dark caves. We went into the unknown. We saw the fireflies of Kuala Selangor on a rowboat. I drank a can of drink called "Kickapoo" - the "original joy juice". We saw the ruins of an old fortress. I sweated profusely. We ate lots of Mee Goreng. I can't wait to go back.
I've been trying to think of a way of comparing Kuala Lumpur to Osaka. The best I can think of is; KL is like the experience of eating a curry with a beard. Delicious, but messy. Osaka is more like a smoothie, through a straw. A sterilised straw, in a perfectly square glass, purchased from a vending machine for ¥100. So maybe I'm no good at comparisons.
I love Malaysia for it's chaos. It's dirty and smelly. No one seems like they are official, or even that they know what they are doing on the face of it. It can be quite confronting. You just have to realise that this is not a new development for them. This country is poor, but thriving and has been for many, many years. It's actually a well oiled machine. Relax!
It's hard to make much of a judgement on Japan as I have only been here for a day and a half. So far I love it. It should be quite clear to anyone that Japan is a well oiled machine. The vending machines aren't the only thing that's blowing my mind. The amount of bicycles is fantastic. And they look great!! AND I haven't seen even one wanker in lycra! The architecture is also blowing my mind. It's more than just the facades. It's inside the buildings, it's the pavements. It's the whole aesthetic. Simplicity, minimalism, repetition. But what I find adds to it are the rare oppositions to these rules.
A sea of squares with evenly spaced simple lighting above every evenly spaced simple door. The pedestrian crossings with no button to push, yet never you wait more than a minute for that green man to light up. The sparsely populated roads, the ample space on the pavement to park bicycles. The clean lines, the clean... everything. The neatness! The Order! Then a man pulling a massive cart filled with cardboard boxes down the street. Or a glimpse inside a locals property that seems to be a junkyard. Or and old mate selling; an old VCR, an old DVD player, some random cd's and porn magazines on the side of the road whilst drinking a beer at 10am.
We went to the aquarium today. It was spectacular. The standout for me were the jellyfish. Tomorrow, we'll ride some bikes to Nippombashi Denden Town to look at the electronics stores. Well, I will. Skye may have a fit of eye rolling and sighing if she were made to accompany me.
The day after tomorrow, Kyoto.
I will not be blogging at regular times. The thought of that makes me sad. I will blog when the time is right (when I can be bothered).