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.
IT WAS EVERYTHING I EVER DREAMED OF IT BEING AND SO MUCH MORE THAN THAT.
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.
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?
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.
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.)
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)
It was a disappointment.
This 12-foot-tall terror was just sitting in a garage, next to a 20-foot snake. Just hangin’
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?