I've just returned from a trip to Japan.
They say that you should never meet your heroes, and I think that's true for places that you've come to mythologize. Growing up an anime and manga fan, Japan has been a part of my imagination for a long time. I've learned rudimentary aspects of its language by listening to its TV shows, and worked out its culture through its cartoons.
Japan was not a disappointment, but it was -- different.
Far more reserved, conservative, and fastidious than I had expected it to be, the Japanese tendency to be a stickler to traditions and decorum struck me as admirable at first, but wearisome after a few days. Their attention to detail struck me as as obsessive-compulsive. I was glad to return, and even the messiness of Kuala Lumpur, with water taps that didn't work and people yelling down hallways, was relief.
In spite of it all, I found that I admired the meticulous attention to quality that was present in almost all of the work that they produced. Everything, even candy, felt like a work of art. At Ginza I stepped into a store that sold nothing but paper products and stationery, called Kyukyodo. I am a bibliophile, and I appreciate the craftsmanship of good stationery. If I ever return to Japan, it would be to search for its stationery.
I'm still not quite back home yet. I didn't return straight to Kuala Lumpur after Japan -- I'm typing this from Kuching, where I am spending my Christmas. I still have to re-orient myself to the idea that the place I had envisioned in my fantasies wasn't quite what it was when I went there. What about London? What about New York? What about the whole of England, especially, since I grew up an Anglophile postcolonial Asian, feeding on a diet of Penguin classics and teatime snacks with tropical fare? I have read, watched, and consumed material from these parts of the world and depicted these parts of the world; now I am beginning to doubt what the signifiers have signified.
Perhaps over the next few days I will post details of my tour in Japan. In the meantime, I am going to write a letter of complaint concerning the tour company I used -- I had a poor experience with them, and will be telling others whom I know to avoid them.