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Letter from Japan (standard:travel stories, 4412 words)
Author: John AhernAdded: Sep 01 2002Views/Reads: 2760/1500Story vote: 0.00 (0 votes)
Stranger than fiction in Japan - personal observations.

Letter from Japan 

August 20 2002 

Finally found a computer that would open my disk of addresses, so  ....
here's the letter I promised. 

I've been here two weeks now, Honshu and Shikoku Islands, and it's been
wonderful. I've got a really good guide in Miyuki; a bit too good at 
times, she's running me ragged! It seems her Japanese side has taken 
over since her return home and everything has to be seen and now I'm 
beginning to long for a bit of freedom from all the `fantasy` stuff 
that the locals live for. 
@émééééëéé@éé...é...éé@éé@ééééé...é'@ééééë Please 
excuse any Japanese characters that sneak in; I am having real trouble 
with this keyboard and I have spent ages typing only to lose it all 
again when the ol 'puter decides to 'turn Japanese' and I can do 
nothing to change it back. 

Please understand that what I am about to write should not be taken as a
criticism of the Japanese or their culture; it's just an observation 
during a short stay and meant to be taken lightly and in humour. You 
yourself may go to Japan and have a totally different experience. I 
will go back again and see it in a different light as I intend to walk 
a lot and sleep outside under the stars. 

Since my first hitch-hiking trips away from Ireland many years ago I
have travelled and walked the world over from Europe to North Africa 
and the Middle East, hiked the Americas North and South and roughed it 
thru Afghanistan, India, the Himalayas and the Far East. Avoiding the 
tourist traps and just travelling to 'look' (and delight) at the 
people. "Always a Traveller - Never a Tourist" - that's me and I was 
one of the first through the Berlin Wall after a couple of days waiting 
for someone to make a crack big enough for me to squeeze through. I 
wanted to be among the first to see the 'time warp' that was Eastern 
Europe before it was changed by the 'invasion' of the west. I have 
written too about my personal experiences in East Germany, Poland, 
Czechoslovakia, Hungary and Romania. 

Everything here in Japan is perfect but it occurred to me that there is
very little appreciation for anything natural; everything has to be 
fiddled with in some way or other to make it more 'acceptable' to 
humans which of course then means that any natural/wild essence is 
gone...NATURAL IS NOT GOOD. Try telling that to the Japanese and they 
just do not understand. However, the scenery is just incredible and if 
you appreciate mountains and forests there are more than enough of 
them. I expected big concrete cities but the mountains seem to have won 
the battle against the houses and suburbs in spite of the 130 million 
(?) population. The natural beauty is astounding. A trip to the Island 
of Miyajima in the Inland Sea is worth a full day in order to take it 
all in, it's regarded as one of the three main attractions in Japan. 
The shrines, temples and pagodas are just wonderful and the 'floating' 
Torii (gate ?) is something you will never forget. 

The children make up for what the adults lack in imagination and they
are just beautiful! I've learned most of my words from them as their 
accents are easier to understand. Travelling with a guitar brings a lot 
of attention and the children are spellbound whenever I play. One 
little boy of about 5 came and sat next to me on a train and just said 
nothing while he snuggled in close pushing crisps and sweets at me and 
never smiling at all. His mother came and apologised and asked him 
"What are you doing?" and he told her "I'm trying to make friends with 
this American." Another kid kept running over and shouting into my face 
"I'm Sorry, I'm Sorry, I'm Sorry!"  He must have repeated it a thousand 
times to the embarrassment of his parents who could not stop him and 
eventually just grabbed him and carried him to the next car still 
screaming his two words of English. 

My host is almost paranoid that I might break the law - even failing
what I call the 'shoe ceremony' is punishable by death. Some houses 
have more than five different sets of slip-ons for it's different rooms 
and on one occasion I rushed in (excitedly) with my (god forbid) 
OUTDOOR shoes on and the shrieks of protest and disgust were so 
deafening you'd have thought I'd strode in with a dead horse over my 
shoulder. One day I saw a great movie poster blowing along the street 

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