“Where are you from”? A very Indian looking lady asked this question just when we were getting down at the Nikko station on a train. “India” my wife replied. “We are from the US. How come you are not traveling with a tour?” The underlying assumption was that all Indians go on tour buses. We were traveling on the JR pass and that was the most racist any one was to us on the entire trip. God bless our Prime Minister’s land where people have the money but no manners. I was made aware of the fact the moment I landed on the flight back. The noise, the abrasiveness, the rudeness. I was back in my country even before reaching it.
The eternal puzzle that is Japan can be described in a couple of sentences. They don’t allow one to smoke on the road (there are smoking zones in place on the road) but smoking in an Izakaya ( a cheap pub) is fine. There were people who came to pick you up when it was raining, with their umbrella but didn’t get one for you or even offered the ladies theirs. (He was an Australian) and there were people who got out of their shops, walked with us to direct us to our location.
If Pink Floyd were Japanese they would have ‘Shrine my diamond’ as their bestselling album. All of them (the shrines) are diamonds, some Kohinoor, some artificial. For the Sanghi trolls lord Vishnu is one of the gate keepers to the Buddha. Go troll. For the shrine the game is simple. Get any hill/ mountain, start at the base and go up. However bad you are as an architect the natural beauty will cover you. All you need is a good gardener Mr. Perry Mason.
For all those who say that the Japanese society is ageing, I would offer a stay during the last 2 weeks of May. The overwhelming number of school children out to visit the tourist attractions will negate that view instantly. They were in every nook and corner. As an Atheist I may not believe in God’s presence everywhere. But Cockroaches and Japanese school children, I won’t question, at least in Japan.
Japanese food is a veritable feast. The fish, the eel, the beef. Not one thing that one ate there was unworthy. If somebody had to sacrifice a life, doing it for Japanese cuisine is not the worst thing to do. A vegetarian person in Tokyo, on the other hand, is reduced to a complete anti thesis of Mary Antoinette. Can’t have cake, only bread. Sometimes conducted tours do make sense!
3 things that I would always remember about this country – Tomohiro Sasaki (my friend from early career days) and his lovely wife, the silence on the Tokyo Metro and the craziness of the Harajuku street.
There was no cherry blossom season when I visited and yet somehow I saw it everywhere in this country.