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editorials>>Japan Overview 2003-2004

Things didn't quite go as planned this time around. Believe me, I planned and planned and planned, almost every detail of where I was going to stay, what clubs and events I was going to go to and who I was going to meet up with. Well, almost nothing went right and most of that planning was for nothing. But that's not to say I didn't have any fun...

The first week was basically spent just resting and getting into sync with Japan again. Coupled with some stuff that happened earlier, the first problem arose when my Tokyo hotel room that was supposed to be $110/night turned out to be $250/night. Needless to say I didn't stay there very long. After finding a cheaper hotel nearby, I basically toured around Tokyo, visiting placeslike O-Daiba and the Shin-Yokohama Ramen Museum. Nights were usually spent around Shinjuku's Kabuki-cho, as it was close to the hotel so I didn't have to take a train anywhere (although I did hit up Roppongi one night to see what it was all about--not going back).

So over a grand later I leave Tokyo for Nagano...except there's no snow. That's problem number two. So I scrap that idea and spend about a week at a friend's place way out in the middle of nowhere, Mie Prefecture. This place is so country that I was getting stared and pointed at walking down the street (more than usual) just because I was foreign (foreigners are in short supply there). Pretty un-eventful, though I had a good time relaxing and setting up a 5.1 speaker system in my buddy's house.

After that I took an eight hour train ride to Osaka to catch a friend's band in concert...but arrived a half-hour late. And this is when I got up at seven in the morning to make sure I wouldn't be late. Darn (quick note: going from Kyoto to Tokyo to Mie to Kyoto to Nagano back to Kyoto and then to the airport took about 70+ hours on the train...I'm glad I had my iPod). So after that I stay at a friend in Kyoto's place for about a week until I'm basically kicked out. Now, this is another thing: in December/first part of January, everyone in Japan is crazy busy as its the end of the year, working all the time, spending time with family, mailing 500 new years cards (not exaggerating, and vacationing (if you're one of the lucky ones who gets a vacation. So in short, I wasn't really able to meet up with my friends for any period of time, as they were all preoccupied. This also made it hard finding places to stay. Oh yes, I asked people if I could stay at their house, from this date to this date, blah blah..."Sure, no problem! My parents say it's OK too!" was the normal response (unless, of course, it wouldn't be OK for me to stay at there house, and then it might be something like "Nooooo way!"). People seem to forget easily. When I get to Japan, I have people asking me when I'm coming, when I'm leaving, how many days I'll be staying at their place etc. etc. Many families also have relatives coming over for new years, so I'm just a big hassle to most of my friend's families. Annnddd...the person I was staying with the longest amount of time had a death in the family, so I was out of a place to stay for an indeterminate amount of time in the middle of my trip. So I was kept busy a lot of the time, trying to find places to stay, sometimes not knowing where I was sleeping the next night.

I did eventually make it to Nagano, although at the end of my trip for only three days. It was great boarding, as usual. Between my friend's house in Mie and Nagano, I did a bit of sightseeing, mountain climbing, CD copying, clubbing, partying and most importantly, celebrated New Year's in Japan for the first time (properly at least). Went and saw a free concert at JR Kyoto station then proceeded to party in the streets with tens of thousands of people until early morning.

So, definitely not a trip wasted, although things could have gone a bit smoother. There's always next time I guess... (projected time as of January 2004: December 2004).