Sunday, July 30, 2006

Entry #70: Japan Reigns Supreme!

Given that the name of this blog is 'North of Japan,' I decided to venture down South and see exactly what it is that I am North of. Two days in Japan sounds so short, and indeed it is.. but we managed to cram in a lot of things: walking through shrine areas in the city, sightseeing at a temple + reclining buddha tucked in the countryside, hiking through a giant bamboo forest, strolling through shops at Canal City, people watching in the park, clubbing, arcade (to play airhockey and take stickyphotos... I haven't done that since grade 10!!!), Fukuoka Historical Museum, more clubbing, and watching the sunrise on the beach. Food highlights included sushi, okinomiyaki (Japanese pizza), bubble tea and soba noodles. I attempted to go shopping, but 45 minutes was just barely scratching the surface, so what better excuse than that to visit again sometime.

My shopping excursion resulted in a jackpot of a different sort: I managed to run into the yamamba-est of all yamamba gangs. This in itself made the whole trip worthwhile. About 4 girls and a guy, walking down the street, looking similar to this:

They were crossing the street in the opposite direction, and my heart actually beat faster from the shock! I couldn't decide whether to chase them for a photo or not (they looked pretty intimidating) but by the time I actually decided to turn around and look for them, they had disappeared. Yamambas are a subculture in Japan; they spend hours tanning and applying white theatrical makeup to their eyes, lips, and most recently, noses. They wear stuffed animals, 5-inch platforms, and sometimes pajamas, in order to stand out.

Later that evening, after dusk, we came upon what were probably the same group I'd seen earlier. We watched as the yamambas in pajamas practiced their ritual 'para para' dance by a pond in the park. It looked sort of like raver-with-glowsticks dance in slow motion. The lines between the cliques in the park were so distinct, due to clothing and appearance alone.. the skater punks, the yamambas, the barbies, the 2-inch skirt group, etc. It was like highschool, magnified to grotesque proportions. And yet, the cliques were calm and laid back, with nobody trying to pick flights like they would have back home.

I can't believe how much Japan surpassed my expectations. I always thought of Japan as being crowded, expensive, with robotic people and sensory-overload. (Everyone and their dog wants to go, or has gone to Japan, or at the very least praises the culture.. so I suppose this also made me skeptical of its greatness.) But it was indeed the opposite! Streets were busy but never crowded, prices were about the same as Vancouver ($18 haircut, $18 for a big meal of sushi, $6 cocktails at clubs, etc), people were amazingly friendly and spoke excellent English (every old person seemed to know how to say 'excuse me!'), and I don't think I saw a single piece of litter on the ground. They are definitely environmentally friendly.. many bikes, like Amsterdam.

However, it was not at all a 'sterile' place - every nook and cranny is brimming with character, little gardens, fountains and plants. Lush and green and diverse foliage. There is nothing ugly in Japan.. it is basically an aesthetic nazi's heaven. The air smells fresh and clean, and you can see the blue sky. The sun is amazingly bright. Japanese are incredibly friendly and hospitable! Hanging out at the deserted train station by the temple, a man and his wife gave us handfuls of red bean fish pastries.. for no reason at all other than to be nice!

Some of the other cool things I saw but didn't take pictures of were:

-A modified ATV with a microphone attached; its Japanese owner just parked it and started rapping
-Around 5 am, a motorcycle gang of youth- each motorcycle glowed a different colour in the dark
-Electronic traffic maps above major intersections, showing traffic problems and best routes
-Beautiful songs play when you cross the street
-Black leather seats and UV-protected windows on the local sky train
-Modified car, that lit up the road underneath it with various changing colours
-Cabs look like little English cars, with lace-lined seats; the doors automatically open and close
-Tall palm trees here and there, thanks to sub-tropical climate

The only things I noticed Japan didn't have were very many good places to dance / go clubbing. It was also hard to hail a cab, and cabs are very expensive (They start at $5 and go up $1 each minute). But really, a drop in the bucket considering everything else. I'll definitely be going back to Japan!

More pics here: Fukuoka Pics

Three more weeks left to post entries in "North of Japan." I'm curious who still reads this blog.. If you're reading this, I invite thee to post a comment underneath, to commemorate entry #70! :)


Anonymous Don said...

I still pop in once in awhile to see what you're up to. :) Dammit, now I want to go to Japan even more! waaaaa

9:59 AM  
Blogger Michelle said...

I'm still reading! You make Japan sound like a place I want to visit.

11:47 AM  
Blogger sheryl said...

heya! I still do :) sounds like you're having a blast. I'll see ya soon!!

10:49 AM  
Blogger dk_- said...

Yay! I love it here. I won't say "told ya so". hahahaha

3:31 AM  
Blogger Ryan said...

I read. Because I yearn to know what Korea is like.

10:12 AM  
Blogger Chelsea said...

Hey Chica! Sounds like YOU had a blast in Japan! What a bummer that I didn't catch up with you ~ had a great, relaxing time myself. Can you believe I enjoyed a 4 hour-long meal at a Swiss restaurant that I found up near Tenjin? Totally rocked! Hope to catch up with you soon ~ before you leave!! Chelsea

8:52 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great blog. I'll have to put japan on my to do list :-)


5:50 AM  

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