I am nomad. Hear me roar.

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Wednesday, 23 February 2011

Indications I'm in Oz


I walk off the plane in a semi comatose state, I make it about a hundred metres before I am faced with the queue of Biblical proportions that is Immigration. After what was easily a half hour wait, I finally make it to the desk. Despite the seven shades of not very nice words that I feel, I manage to give the guy at the counter a grin and a good morning, to be greeted in turn with icy icy silence. I hand over my passport and documents, only to receive a 20 minute lecture on how my passport is damaged and that I need to replace it.

This is how I know I'm back in Australia.

Almost 8 months ago when I left Australia, the girl at Immigration gave me a 10 minute lecture on how my passport was damaged and that I needed to replace it. She also mentioned how I would be really lucky if any of the countries that I was going to would accept it in it's present condition. At the time I thought this was a bit funny, seeing that the Japanese Government had been happy enough with it's condition to affix my visa to it. Long story short however, she let me out of the country.

Considering this incident I expected to have trouble, at some stage throughout my trip, I walked in and out of Korea, nothing.

I walked into Japan, nothing.

I applied for my alien card, changed addresses, twice, and extended my visa for another six months, nothing.

I even applied for a re-entry pass, in case I decide to go back to Japan, and nothing.

When I left Japan and went back to Korea, complete with pink hair, and taking into account the heightened security, I was expecting someone might say something, but nothing. They didn't even flinch.

It was not until I arrived all the way back home that anyone said anything, at all. So I'm standing there, exhausted, looking blankly at this guy lecturing me, wanting to say all of this, but definitely being smart enough not to talk back to the annoying Immigration man, when his manager walks over, takes one look at my passport, gives the annoying Immigration man a look that says "Really? You called me over for this?", and lets me straight into the country.

Only in Australia.

Wednesday, 16 February 2011

Surprise Sydney

I have been keeping a secret.

I have been keeping a secret from all but a few of my close friends and family, and trust me, it has not been easy.

Months ago, I decided to return to Australia for a particular event, I decided to not only return from Japan to attend the wedding of a couple of really awesome people, but before that to return for the Hen's Weekend. A wonderful trip away with a bunch of my best gal pals. On top of just returning for the excursion, I decided to have a little bit of fun with it, the Hen and all of the girls attending (barring the gorgeous Milf who is organising) are completely in the dark about my return. Everyone who does know of my intended presence have been ordered into strict radio, and more importantly Facebook, silence. I should be able to slip under the radar undetected.

What delicious fun this is.

I love surprises.

Return of the Nomad

Today is my last full day in Japan, at least for this trip. In the beginning the plan was always to become nomadic, with no permanent home, until I was ready to live otherwise. Japan has been amazing, but it is time to return to the motherland, for the time being.

Rest assured however, just because I am returning to the country of my birth, it does not mean in any way shape or form, that I shall be any less the traveller I am now. I have a fresh insight on experiencing places, and I intend to carry this back with me.

The adventures will continue, just on a different continent.

Things I will never get used to in Japan

Having now been a resident of Japan for many months, I have discovered many things that I consider to be a bit different. Of these there a few which I believe that no matter how much time I spent in this wonderful country, I could never quite get used to, simply due to my own failure to adapt.

The first of the things that I have not been able to get used to in Japan is heated toilet seats. Now this concept I understand, I completely understand how, particularily in cold weather that the idea of a toasty toilet seat could be very appealing, but for me, it's just weird. It makes me feel like someone else has been sitting there, now I am under no disallusion that the toilet seats I have visited over my trip, and my life have been virgins. I realise that other people have been there before me, and that others will follow, but when you are there, when you are right there sitting on the throne, you just don't like to think about it. You don't like to think about any of the previous, possibly even hairy, occupants, and heated seats awkwardly remind me of this. Uncomfortable. Having said that though, there have been times, in Nagano, and Sapporo, in subzero temperatures, when that warmed receptical was very, very welcome.

Second on my list of my failings in Japan, is carrying cash. I'm just not good at it. In Sydney, I have multiple forms of payment at my fingertips in all but the smallest most backward of stores, so I have never had to worry about how much of funds actually happened to be physically in my wallet at the time. In Japan, the only method of payment available to me the majority of the time is cash, and I have to admit that I have been embarassingly caught out on more occasions than I would like to admit. Just simple mistakes I had made on days when I had been out shopping and thought that the note in my purse was of a higher denomination than it was.

Oooops.

Completely my error I will concede that, but again one of the things I don't think I would ever get used to here.

My third point is the much higher incidence here, of spitting in public, especially directly onto the pavement. In this case too, I'm not just talking about clear spittle, but opaque loogies in many shades, ranging from disturbing solid white, to sickly greens. The very thought of it now, is even enough to affect my gag reflexes. There has been many a time, when I have been peacefully walking along, glancing at the ground to ensure I won't trip, and suddenly having to banish the image of the path from my brain in order to keep from adding my own digestive pyrotechnics to the canvas that is the sidewalk. It is disgusting and something I could never get accustomed to, but really, with this one, should I ever have to?

So foul.

Lastly there is the staring. I understand that I am a foreigner, I understand that I don't look Japanese, so I can understand that people might be a little curious. There are times however, that I have been stared at in such an 'in your face' manner that I have checked myself in the mirror afterwards just to make sure there wasn't something seriously wrong.

One time, I was on a fairly full train on the way home from work, there was only standing room and I had one arm raised to hold onto the handle above my head. I was in conversation with a work colleague, when I felt the sensation of being watched, I glanced beneath my raised arm, to spot a head sprouting out from under my armpit. Needless to say the head, despite it's proximity, did not belong to me. It belonged instead to a junior high school aged boy with a very curious look on his face. The head proceeded to speak, "Hello-how-are-you-I'm-fine-thank-you-and-you?". "I'm well", I replied tentitively, not quite sure how to respond. I had been faced with the child's entire English repitoire, I didn't really know where to go from there. The head seemed happy enough however and had relinquished its position from at my pit, to go and giggle with the heads of it's classmates instead.

I wondered, at one point, if it would be possible to alter my appearance enough to eliminate the staring. Perhaps to dye my hair a darker shade, dress in a more local fashion, but I realised that I would never be able to mask my body or face shape. Even when I was wearing an inch of Geisha make-up and full kimono, I was still unmistakably me. So instead, I have reacted in reverse, my style became louder, and when I finished work I dyed my hair bright pink. It hasn't by any means stopped the staring, but at least it is on my terms now. A consolation I will have to survive with.

Until I learn the Japanese for "Do you want to take a photo? It'll last longer!" anyway.

Anne to Atom, back to Anne

Young people these days have it so easy, in my clubbing days we had to walk fifteen miles, up hill, in the middle of a snow storm, in stilettos. Well, maybe it wasn't fifteen miles but the rest is true enough, and I can't wait to tell my grandchildren, or any other unfortunate youngsters that become trapped within earshot of my geriatric ramblings of my clubbing antics in Tokyo.

Yesterday I met a chick who I called Michigan, because she called me Peaches, and Michigan and Peaches went out on the town. We just had to wade through an obscene amount of slushy snow to get there.

It was Michigan's idea, and we had a reasonable group of hostel residents with us, whom she had collected throughout the day. We were going to Club Atom because our outing coincided with Valentines Day and the venue was hosting some great DJs for the occasion. We danced until our feet ached, and then we danced some more. So much so that even now, hours later, my feet are throbbing from the exertion or from walking in the snow. One or the other.

We partied all night, Michigan had found a cute boy to dance with, whilst I had retreated to a chair to console my complaining feet, and then caught the first train back to Anne Hostel.

Monday, 14 February 2011

Downtime

The first time I came to Tokyo, I planned my trip and my accommodation and it was a disaster. This time I have learnt my lesson. I didn't plan a thing, to Diglett's great surprise when we met up, I hadn't even booked my hostel for that night. We proceeded to jump online and book the most suitable hostel still available. This strategy has led me to a cute little hostel called Anne.

Warren and I have been happily sitting in the common room all day, avoiding the rain, clacking away, and intermittently watching movies on the big screen. Generally just soaking up the chilled atmosphere here. It has been gloriously relaxing after the non-stop sight-seeing that was Sapporo, and the solid work and Shoebox cleaning before that.

Morning mealtime was manic, but merry. The whole hostel was almost full last night with a tour group, most of whom decided to consume their complimentary breakfast of tasty boiled eggs and toast, at the same time as I did. I helped myself to some food and retreated to a corner, to give the group room to do their thing, cheerfully munching on my eggs. The eggs were cooked in my favourite fashion, with the whites opaque and firm, but the yolk left in a bright gold half gooey, almost gelatinous, but not runny, state.

Just perfect.

Eventually, the group moved on, leaving the few of us not involved to enjoy the rest of our breakfast in peace, and for me to begin my day of overdue downtime.

Train to Tokyo

This morning I watched the sun rise over the mountains from a train that was hurtling from Aomori at the top of Honshu, all the way into the heart of Tokyo. I watched as the sky lightened and the rosy stain of the new day painted the snow covered mountains in the distance. Watched as the indigo of night melted away, and promptly fell asleep.

Nomadic

Due to my own lack of organisation, I am again running free in true backpacker style.

Though this time, perhaps it is planned disorganisation, if that is even possible, as I have in this case left everything to the last minute, almost on purpose. I have three and a half days in Tokyo planned, and until this morning I did not even have my mode of transport booked. I guess I just wanted to see how this cookie crumbled, and what I would do under the circumstances. It is a test to a certain degree, and pure curiosity from another angle.

I've now booked the only train available to Tokyo tonight, it's an overnight train, and my ticket is unreserved, so I may or may not have a seat, I definitely don't have a bed. I could very well end up sleeping in the aisle with the Turtlepack as a pillow, but that, at this stage is half the fun. I'm a little bit excited at the prospect.

We shall see what the night, and afterwards Tokyo, will bring.

Just any other day in Sapporo















Ferris Wheel in a Snow Storm




Candles in the Snow















Nijo Markets

As we had been gorging ourselves on so much seafood in Sapporo we decided a visit to Nijo Seafood Markets was in order to really see what was on offer in Hokkaido. I was not disappointed.

The stalls were amazing, there were ebony urchins with sharp spines, fat scallops and happy clams poking their tongues out at their predicament, unaware of just how delicious they are going to be. Crabs of all shapes and sizes, some already boiled traffic light red, huddling their claws and legs into their bodies against the chill of their ice beds, others live and tapping their triple dot, triple dash, triple dot against the glass of the tank.

A happy vendor with a cheerful smile, greets me with free samples, insisting I try the sweet juicy little sucker on the slab before me. Freshly caught and boiled that morning, he's a cute little spiny crab, that despite being cooked has retained quite a greenish hue to his shell. He is very very cute.

Cute and delicious.

I quickly devour the delectable flesh from the proffered shell. The vendor-man then asks if we have ever tasted Hokkaido urchin. Having tried (and not particularly liked) urchin before, I was hesitant, but the cheery little man was not to be deterred, so we let him spoon the ochre coloured segments into our hands.

It was not what I expected.

It was not what I had tried before.

This was something else.

The yellow segments were glorious and sweet, with a mollusc-like flavour and a slightly grainy almost mustardy texture.

With that we bid our happy vendor-man goodbye, I wanted to buy the entire contents of his stall, but as it was, we had no kitchen or home to take the wares back to, so we had to leave him with only our gratitude for my new found adoration of urchin.

Illuminated Ice