Homesick For A Place I Only Visited

12/16/2013 · 11 comments

in Adrian, For The Love Of God, Love

To answer everyone’s questions: Yes, Japan was the best trip I’ve ever been on in my life. Several days there–in a row–I thought, “This is the best day of my life.”

I had been dreaming of going to Japan my entire life. Because of that, I was worried that I wouldn’t like it–that it wouldn’t live up to my expectations, that it would in some way seriously disappoint, that I would have thought of it all this time for nothing.


I won’t bore you with all the minutiae of every minute of my trip (because I don’t hate you), but I will tell you about at the best parts.

Adrian Is Tom Cruise

A total of 7 people asked Adrian if he was Tom Cruise and asked to take a photo with him. 7. Just so we’re clear, this is my Adrian.

2013-11-29 14.49.52

He looks nothing like Tom Cruise, but I guess we all look the same over there. Once, I was mistaken for Lindsay Lohan. To be fair, I had drank my weight in Suntory Premium Malt the night before and was looking really rough in aviators and a sad pair of cargo pants.


A retirement home built in the 1400’s, there’s a garden and a pavilion that was once covered entirely in silver. It was built to complement Kinkakuji, the Golden Pavilion, which is on the other side of Kyoto and is still covered in gold. Ginkakuji, now stripped down to just the wood, should be a disappointment, right?

2013-11-20 11.22.24

Jesus Shitballing Sailor Moon, I didn’t think places like this really existed. 

When we walked in, we had to sit down it was so beautiful. It really is the most beautiful place I have ever been in my life. Nothing–nothing else–compared.

The Motherfucking Food and Booze

There’s no open container law in Japan, so you can drink pretty much anywhere you want. Which also means that beer was available in every vending machine, along with coffee (hot!), soup, every kind of tea you can imagine, coke, and something called Pocari Sweat which was their version of Gatorade but which is Fresca.

2013-11-16 16.24.32Unexpectedly refreshing! 

With beer being 1) everywhere and 2) amazing, you can damn well bet I had my fill. Every night.

I am not a friendly traveler when I am hungry or thirsty, and Japan has vending machines that could do your taxes and convenience stores nicer than Tiffany’s every 12 feet. You are never more than arm’s reach from a delightful snack and probably about 17 different flavors of tea. If you are a hangry traveler, Japan is for you.

Also there are pancake-flavored candies that taste just like pancakes. 

(Likewise, if anyone can tell me what the difference is between American Iced Tea and Japanese Iced Tea, I’d love to know. That shit was the fucking best, and I need to know.)

Weird Shit

I tried to clear out of my head that Japan would be weird. I tried really hard. I wanted to think it was racist of me to think that Japan is crazy and that we would see weird things everywhere.

Japan is fucking strange as shit. Largely these are explained with the label of ‘cultural differences’, but for the same reasons tourists think that Texas Big Hair is bizarre, I found these bizarre. (You can click on any of these photos to see a larger version)

2013-11-19 18.12.48Public restroom. Public. As in–this was a trains station. Immaculate and full of interesting options. Also–heated seat!

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It was a disappointment. 


This 12-foot-tall terror was just sitting in a garage, next to a 20-foot snake. Just hangin’

2013-11-23 19.19.28To be clear, even the locals were side-eyeing the shit out of these. 


This guy was trying to bogart my music. Asshole. 


The dancing Elvises of Harajuku. All over 40, all with knee braces from twisting so hard. 


Some Japanese schoolkids practicing their English with me for a school assignment. They were far more excited about Adrian “Tom Cruise” Gavin.


 Mertitties and Matcha

Geiko and Maiko

Reason #1 I wanted to go to Japan: the Gion District of Kyoto, where the most famous Geisha were (and still are). Ever watched or read Memoirs of a Geisha? Learned about them even a little bit? Chances are you know how famous Gion and its hanamatchi (burroughs) are. I’ve read about and studied and written paper after paper about Geiko and Maiko for so long. I felt like I knew Gion. I knew it wouldn’t be what I pictured in my head, I knew that I wouldn’t get everything I wanted out of it. I tried to lower my expectations.

Gion is now, of course, a tourist trap, with little to no chance of seeing real Geiko (Kyoto Geisha) or Maiko (Trainee Geisha).

Unless you’re Adrian, who accidentally makes all my fucking dreams come true. First dream of seeing real Geiko perform was accomplished when we accidentally stumbled into the Kaburenjo Theatre where, oh, no big, a bunch of Geiko were earning their Master of Dance titles that day. Oh no big, we went in and watched. Oh, no big, it was just the best day ever.

When we left there, having been literally surrounded by an audience full of holy shit real live no fucking around Geiko I thought that was all I needed. Sure, I really wanted to meet a Maiko, but the chances of seeing one were nil. The chances of meeting one were worse.

That is, of course, until Adrian stumbled upon this Tea House that offered tourists a chance to have a short tea with a no fucking fooling holy shit real live Maiko, but there were only 14 seats a day. Oh no big, right, he just got us the last two.

I could have died the moment we left and everything would have been fine. We, and 12 Japanese tourists, sat and were served tea by a Kyoto Maiko named Erihae, who was just 18 and had already been doing this for 2 years. She was adorable and was worried that we didn’t understand her (thank you, Japanese college classes! We were good) and she danced and we took photos with her and you guys–I felt like a 5-Year-Old at Disneyworld.




So yes–it was amazing and wonderful and I cannot wait to go back. We were there for quite a while, so I know I left some stuff out. Was there anything you wanted to know that I didn’t get to in this post?

RedandHowling December 16, 2013 at 9:16 am

You make me long for a place I’ve never visited. Thank you for this great post Noa!
I’m obsessed with good food, what was your favorite meal that didn’t come out of a vending machine?
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Noa December 16, 2013 at 7:12 pm

Easily the best meal was a steak and rice bowl with Ponzu sauce. They sell Ponzu sauce in bottles in grocery stores here, or you can make it if you’re really good, but that shit was amazing.

RedandHowling December 17, 2013 at 8:13 am

Yum! I’m gonna git me some PONZU and put it on stuff!
RedandHowling recently posted..The Crafty Um

Abby December 16, 2013 at 3:39 pm

I’m not into traveling, but I am just continuing to live vicariously through you much like I do on a daily basis anyway. But so much awesome in this post!

1. Don’t ever make the Tom Cruise comparison again. I want to like your husband, even though I know about his balls. Cruise references might ruin that.
2. Lindsay Lohan? If your hair was darker, I would say more Christina Ricci?
3. Are those pants that give you an actual ass?!? If so, HOOK A FLAT-ASSED SISTER UP!
4. I read “Geiko” as gecko throughout this whole post and it totally changed the meaning.
5. I’m an idiot.
Abby recently posted..A Humble Holiday Letter

Noa December 16, 2013 at 7:13 pm

1. I didn’t say I was into it, I just said it happened.
2. RIGHT?!
3. Sadly, no, they’re just pants that make you bend over a lot.
4. Fair enough.
5. But you’re my idiot.

Headset Hellion December 17, 2013 at 12:33 am

It sounds like you had a great time! I would love to visit Japan someday. I have friends who were stationed there in the Navy and stayed for over 10 years because they loved it so much. They literally had to be forced to come back to the States if they wanted to reenlist again and stay in the Navy. When they retire, they plan to go back to Japan permanently!
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Noa December 17, 2013 at 6:13 pm

I don’t blame them. I’m trying to figure out a way to live there permanently in the far future. Japan is amazing.

ColinP December 17, 2013 at 1:40 pm

I am so totally jealous, Japan is somewhere I have wanted to visit for a really long time. Were there any visits to the really crazy vending machines?
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Noa December 17, 2013 at 6:14 pm

We didn’t get to the Red Light Districts where the really insane ones were, but to be fair, almost 100% of them were weird. You could get passport photos at a vending machine about every 100 feet. Very strange.

Julie January 8, 2014 at 9:49 pm

I’m so glad you loved Japan. I lived there for six years and had to be forced to relocate to Singapore. After a year and a half in this tropical shithole I still pine for Japan. I don’t miss the States at all. I miss convenience stores, hanami, yakimon, okonomiyaki, ramen, izakayas, and the people. Definitely go back. Then go back again. You know there are kendo classes at Osaka Castle? You can take soba making classes. Go to the snow festival in Hokkaido. Don’t forget about hiking Mt Fuji, seeing Miyajima, snowboarding in Nagano… I’m sure I’m not telling you anything you don’t already know, either.
Crap. Now I’m homesick again.

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