As I board a train in Norway, I realise my little twelve-day jaunt to the Asian economic powerhouse has ruined me: we’re six minutes late in departing from Oslo to Bergen, and I audibly tut. At least in Japan I would be safe in the knowledge that would someone would have the decency to die for this tardiness. Additionally, Japan ran so effectively and so calmly, that when I now take public transport, I’m aghast at people having the temerity to converse with one another. Out loud and everything. Even children are heard. Heard! Can you bloody believe it?!
After all these years I can finally claim to understand the fascination and love tourists have for the country. Every western civilisation should have a Shinkansen/bullet train. Every nation should ban smoking almost everywhere. And all should have a door to a cavernous temple housing 1001 golden life-sized Buddhas for no other reason than just looking astounding. Despite not being a foodie in the slightest, I quickly became accustomed to small, authentic two-man restaurants (chef and waiter) that served only a few dishes but did so swiftly and with aplomb. Whether tokoyaki, katsudon or some beautiful juicy steak (and rice, naturally) the food is always high-quality, albeit a little pricy. Then again, Norway makes my soul shudder: a can of coke costs £3.50. I almost rioted. No wonder why Norway champions the peace-prize, they’re teetering on the edge!
In my last few days in Tokyo, amongst visits to the myriad of world-class gardens, there were two stand-out experiences. The first was whizzing around the streets in a real-life Mario Kart. Hitting 80km/h on the Rainbow Bridge was a definite highlight, which doesn’t sound quick until you understand there is only about six inches separating your arse from tarmac. Incidentally, lorries seem like tower blocks at that height! And the second incredible experience was teamlabs, a sensory and technological artsy-marvel, akin to waltzing through the mind of Kubrick whilst watching Interstellar and taking a trip on mushrooms. If you’re in Tokyo, go for it!
For all the bustle and millions of bodies in Japanese cities, I already miss it: the quiet efficiency; the engineering excellence; the quality of the food; the calmness of the people; the peace. And this coming from Norway of all places, which itself embodies all of those things. I may well be broken.
Writing and writing...