Alex Kerr writes lovely things about Japan.
Life is awkward
I hope all these mental health podcasts are better than whatever Charlotte is listening to
Not loving the sweater vests
No hospital visits this time
How long have you been here? I couldn’t say.
How are they always at Shibuya Crossing?
May I be able to sleep when I get back
Are you awake?
Does anyone know what’s happening?
Does it get easier?
I just don’t know what I’m supposed to be
Every girl goes through a photography phase
Nobody ever tells you that
The mountain in the distance
Which way is Mt Fuji?
The Maples look great. I miss taking those pictures
Kyoto is lovely
May you find your way. May you find yourself. May you enjoy the journey.
Onsen onsen onsen
Daikanyama is hip
I can’t tell the difference
I thought I’d missed you
Looks of sadness and longing
To be seen
To be close to somebody
To have Phoenix songs play in the background of our lostness
Friends you get for a moment. This one transitory moment. It will never be like this again. You won’t be back round this way.
Glico flashes neon wishes
Being back in Tokyo I have the funny feeling of retracing my steps, familiarity, revisiting and accidentally looping back
Here I sit in Shibuya not far from where I went at the beginning of this trip. I have crossed that crossing amongst the masses myriad times. I have yet to be robbed.
The main thing I misplaced was hostel keys. This is unsurprising.
I packed the wrong things. I was awkward at times. I have been tired, as ever reminded that my body is not as it once was and that it’s limits are always there awaiting me, reminding me that I am finite and fragile.
I worry about how I am going to travel in the future, but overall I feel good. As good as I can possibly hope for.
That anxiety and fear is gone. I am safe, this is nice, I am enjoying it. I settle into things.
I also have nothing much to steal. Enough to buy a 7/11 dinner and transit fare to the airport.
The main thing to worry about now is my flight. I check the time over and over in the hope that the triplicate events in my phone (generated by some sort of email thing not me) are in fact real and right, that I am not as ever messing up and getting the details wrong. Something to work on. Trusting myself, trusting that things will work out, that I can be safe and okay.
I am content. I am here in this moment. Savouring what remains.
I never made it out to that island. I really really wanted to, my guidebook made it sound so easy and lovely but it didn’t work out.
I probably should’ve done more research but the impulsive side of me won. I was busy trying to keep up with coursework and didn’t have time to piece it together.
I feel stupid, like I failed, like I’m wasting time. I came all this way and I didn’t make it to that island. I decided not to go.
I swapped maybe not making it to hikes via shoddy infrequent bus service for hiding in cafes from the rain. I generally have been longing for that, wanting to sit and read. I got through 50 pages of a book on plants. All things considered it was a good day.
Still I can’t help but feel like I screwed up, like this long shot off the beaten path plan was always stupid, like I need to stop trying to do this because it just ends with me frustrated.
I’m looking out over the sea, from a harbour, wind that smell, the view of where that overly expensive early morning ferry would’ve gone. A couple hours on the water to an island.
I love these remote islands. They pull me.
As stupid as I feel I can’t deny that I love the sea.
This town is nice. It’s so cute I could pinch it’s checks. Everything I’ve eaten has been delicious and a good price.
I know I’m too hard on myself, that this is what travel means, you can’t control the weather, guidebooks aren’t always reliable. I know still I’m beating myself up instead of enjoying the break.
If I want to travel to these remote islands I need to start driving again, an unfortunate reality of car culture. Anxiety can be worked on and overcome I just have to decide whether it’s worth it. Then there’s the matter of my back and wrist. Can they take driving? I haven’t asked that question of them since everything got bad. I do know that steering wheels are up there in thing a that prompt pain in my arm. Is it worth the time and money to work on that pain? For the mobility that comes with wheels? Rarely do I see value in autonomous vehicles but for rural transportation they seem appealing. I’d definitely take advantage.
I like the breeze and the wind. I like that I came somewhere further and different. I like this town. Maybe it’ll clear tomorrow and I can go to the volcano. I can move and do and feel like I have something to show for my travels.
I am having a good day, other than the bit where my arm got tired and I had to deal with luggage, but that is to be expected. I got on a train, slept, I wandered around, I’m now at a cafe.
I’ve always felt good traveling by myself. Having a generous amount of time in a place, space to get bored.
I love this quiet out of the way town even if it’s too hot here.
It’s hard to believe it’s break already, the trip is winding down, the time grows short. I’m on budget, I can spend the money on food.
Traveling as a group is nice, it has its perks but it’s also something I’m bad at. I have traveled by myself a lot, I have gotten good at being on my own, being with others I don’t know about. It’s a lot harder for me than being by myself. Between freelancing and moving around and living in my own head I have spent so much time on my own terms, no compromises, no company but books and podcasts. Sometimes I think I’ve gotten too good at being by myself.
Even if it can be awkward and tiring I am enjoying the people out here. You don’t get that by yourself.
Some notes/thoughts probably for a draft of one of my assignments:
A way of marking where we’ve been and where we’re going
To see that things do not have to be as hey are, they can be different
Memories and moments, materials and textures.
To hear the rush of a river that others hold sacred
It is a new era in Japan today, an exciting time to be in this country. We have walked past lines at shrines and it has gotten me thinking about the way we mark changes. Endings. Beginnings. The new year. The new era. Look forward to the future with hope and possibility. Ready or not here we come.
So I have been strolling the hills of Tokyo and thinking of my blessing for a new era, in the style of Harry Potter and the Sacred Text. I don’t know how or if this is a thing people would do in Japan but I think the sentiment in enough. I go to the shrine by my hostel and stand in awe and hope that maybe the health will rub off on me.
I write this on a stoop as rain falls softly beside me. I am content. My body is tired, the good kind from lots of walking. My wrist aches, the bad kind of pain that scares me and makes me wonder about whether I can do things I care about. My sleeves are rolled up slightly and I am excited to spend the night reading a book that fills me with delight.
So a blessing for the new era:
May I be kind and patient. May others be kind and patient with me.
May we take care of each other. May we think more of beauty and joy and less of money. May we put well-being first and foremost.
May we remember that no matter how many iThings we create we are still merely creatures, that our lives and bodies are fragile and precarious.
May I remember to enjoy what I have while I have it. May I remember to enjoy the people who are in my life while I have them.
May I be wise enough to ask for help. May that help be available when I ask for it.
When we did the Trans Siberian we started in Beijin and worked our way towards Moscow. Awaiting us at the end of our journey was a monument, the zero marker for the route to Vladivostok. In our trusty Lonely Planet everything was organized from there. We often worked in reverse, going towards instead of away from zero.
Today I begin at zero, we begin at zero. Our journey through this city, the past, the future. Through choices and paths, myths and monuments. We begin at zero and work our way outwards.
Coming and going. Time feels circular. Big dominant cities tend to do things the same.
How do we measure a journey? A city? A place? Where does the kilometre market on the road sign actually measure to?
Nihobashi in Tokyo
I am glad that it’s a Sunday morning. It feels tame yet it’s still crowded and stressful. I want to disappear down a side street, find a cafe to read at, I don’t really want to be here.
I am worried about pickpockets, about all the ways I might fuck up and ended up having to spend money I don’t have. That voice was so loud before I left, louder than the excitement I was expectantly asked to feel. I was excited but my brain was more preoccupied with the feeling that I’d mess up in some unfixable way and never recover. The same feeling that drives my anxiety dreams about forgetting to do an assignment and then flunking out of my MLA because of it.
The silly thing is that I am very comfortable traveling. I have done it a lot and there are few things that feel as natural and easy.
I am good. I am content. My brain is tired and it really just wants to go somewhere cozy to listen to John Green’s voice as he examines and rates the world I inhabit in a way that makes me swoon at the beauty of stories and words, in a way that reminds me of how I got to be this particular person doing this set of things. Always the love of words and ideas and stories. Always.
It’s early. I wandered the quiet streets of Tokyo and enjoyed the narrow alleys, vending machines and buildings. Was thrilled to discover an unremarkable park filled with people exercising and doing their morning routines. I watch water flow in a wide river that tries to contain and mask it.
I rode trains, beautiful, wonderful trains.
I was distraught to find that the pastry I ate for breakfast every morning the last time I was in Japan (yes EVERY morning) is no longer available. While mourning the loss of a treasured routine I tried a different pastry from 7/11 and was pleasantly satisfied.
Now I am here in Shibuya waiting for things to open, feeling tired. I came here because I’d like to buy a toque, because somehow I am always cold. I thought it was spring so I didn’t pack one. I don’t know if it’s worth it, or if I have enough cash in my wallet to buy one — an unfortunate oversight.
I remember liking a couple of design stores out here last time. I remember enjoying it.
I wait for things to open, I wait for the city and myself to wake up.
While cruising through my spreadsheet some Will Ferguson quotes popped up (well they were one of the last entries so I saw them right away). He wrote Hitching Rides With Buddha and does other travel writing, one of my great loves, so I thought I’d share some of those.
Cherry blossoms like so many things in this world are fleeting. You can try and chase them, to time the day right. You can also just enjoy them while you have them.
I've had Hitching Rides With Buddha by Will Ferguson for a while. The pages, when I actually sat down to read them, were fleeting. They passed quickly. Now it's over. I've finished this book and since I rarely re-read books I doubt I'll be back round this way.
I did very much enjoy this book. It was as easy to read as it was to misplace. It did not sit safely on a shelf. It is much underlined.
It's the type of book that reminds me of why I wanted to be a writer in the first place and why I am working on a travel book of my own. I've always loved travel writing — basically since I first encountered it in junior high or high school. It was what I wanted to do when I grew up.
I've been making progress on things. Feeling a bit better while also trying to make peace with the fact that I might feel kind of crappy from now on. I have three big goals for the end of August and I am on my way to achieving each of them.
This book is another lesson on getting stuff done. I spend a lot more time thinking about the thing and not doing it than actually doing it.
Sure actually dealing with my poor file choices made over a decade is a lot of work. Sure editing a book is a lot of work. Mostly I just feel overwhelmed or tired and make excuses not to deal with it.
Yesterday I went to a cute cafe, now with easel because of back pain, and edited my book. It could be good. I come off as being really anxious. Really anxious. I guess I am a lot of the time. It also has some of my Rhi humour at moments.
I'm glad I'm doing it. In high school a book, like the one I just read, was to me the greatest thing a human could achieve. You get there by doing it. Bit by bit. By actually doing it. Making the time, instead of the excuses.
It's nice to have these crisp and fantastic sentences to remind me of why I'm doing this in the first place.