As I leave Japanese shores, I also leave the most foreign place I´ve gone to this trip(besides cumbria). I´ve had a fantastic time and its been an inspiration. So, I arrived and I had 2 nights in an old ryokan, they had an onsen(actually they had the other sei-something that is a hot bath from tap water), and kept bringing me breakfast which I have no idea how to receive(I tried getting up to greet them since they didnt go in at first, I tried to stay in bed under the sheets. both approaches seemed a bit awkward). But the breakfast was delicious, there was a taste there that I now think of as distinctly Japanese, the pickled vegetables. I had it on the airplane over the pacific as well, and I instantly felt like I was still in japan.
So, Tokyo. I must mention a bit about the start and end of my stay here in japan; Tokyo is bizarre. Its easy to loose your way, but having google maps & cellular wifi(which is rentable at the airport) makes things easier. I saw the difference first hand with people I met who did not have 3g/4g with them, they ended up spending twice as much time finding places. Tokyo is arranged in areas and not streets, So you cannot just follow a street that easy(i think, I may be mistaken here). In Tokyo I tried hot baths, and its the first time I actually enjoyed sitting and steaming in heated water. Since you clean yourself well before going in, its a very different feeling than to be in a bathtub. its very comfortable and I will seek out onsen in the future. Also tweets and mentions from japan seemed to generate more interest from friends and followers. I think the western culture has a fascination with the country, which I can totally understand.
I met a group of aussies(of course) and ended up hanging out with them and singing karaoke!
Sound stuff: I recorded so much here. what fascinated me the most was the musicality of the public services, like bank machines, streetlights and metro jingles, many stations have their own jingle played before doors close, and its tied together with the area the station is at, that would be fantastic in Oslo(Jokke on the east side/ deLillos on the west eh?;) I also laughed when I first withdrew cash as some of the ATMs have a distinct voice saying «welcome» exactly like the shops in snowboard kids for n64! I recorded a fair bit of Susurrus near crowds and traffic, there was an article in designing sound that mapped out a field recorders intent to release a Japanese special library as he claimed japan background noises are cultural unique, will compare my field recordings of Europe with Japan to test this.
after 3 days.. Shinkansen, Mt. Fuji and Kyoto.
Shinkansen is epic. Its a wickedly cool train, the speed and elegance and comfort of that ludicrous beast, it departs between Tokyo to Kyoto every 10 minutes, each entrance has a staff waiting for it when it arrives and cleans it within a few minutes, the trains are punctual to the second usually. Also my wifi box worked all the way for the 2.5 hours it took to cross that part of japan. The skies were clear so I got to see Mt. Fuji as the Shinkansen snaked its way in a semicircle around the amazing dormant volcano. I now understand fully why people are fascinated with that mountain, as it is much grander in real life than in pictures(very similar to grand canyon in this case, or manhattan).
Kyoto was spent with work and tourism. I got to see a few temples, record heaps of sounds and even some Japanese crows(very distinct and cool)I met up with the aussies again here, and I recorded some drunk Japanese women singing the Ponyo song as we passed them on the street at some point. A small note, japan was colder than I thought. Especially coming from Australia and just having been used to the heat. I would have known about this before arriving had I actually planned a bit of my trip here, but eh. I enjoyed the spontaneous parts of this trip so far, so Japan was me lavish myself with non-planning.
In Kyoto they also have an obscene amount of shrines. I visited the fox temple and did quite a few bell recordings. Me and the australians also had a wicked evening before we left our separate ways. Ill miss them drongos.
Kyoto was super slow compared to Tokyos ultra effectiveness. Especially busses.
I med up with Ken Usami in Kyoto and together we went to his home in Nara. I was to visit him and his family for a few days and they are a lovely bunch. His mother and father instantly made me feel at home, and I enjoyed their company, I hope they enjoyed having me as a guest, as such humble, intelligent and warm people are not an everyday ocurrance. Ken works for Capcom as a sound designer, so I enjoyed the time we spent together geeking out about guitars and Korean washing machines, temple bells and udon. Nara felt as the most authentic area I had been in during my stay. no more than 300k people, its small for a Japanese town, and the temples are very old there. I felt the weight of the years and their history when walking around in them and in many ways was more impressive than the spotless and polished temples in Kyoto and Tokyo. Also we got lost in the forest and hung out with tame deer.
A note on Wandering in Japan.
I would recommend having a walkabout wherever you are, but especially when you are in a place which is culturally different from what you are used to. walking around randomly, you often end up finding small treasures that elude the tourist path. Dont use a map, float free for a bit and follow your whims.
After returning to Tokyo for the last time I was to be part of a livestream of the launch of Teslagrad in the country, which was a fortunate accident. I was to sit and converse and play the game live for an audience, and it was mostly talk in Japanese. It was bizarre and a crazy nice mix between Norwegians and Japanese that commented on the stream 🙂 I also met some other lovely Australians, Romy which I had met back in Sydney and her entourage, consisting of some really cool people and a night of booze and small foods 😀
I left the shores of Japan, and headed onwards to GDC and San Francisco, Double Fine and Krillbite.