Dec. 22nd, 2015

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My tour began by travelling from Kuala Lumpur to Hong Kong. We -- my aunt, her colleague and I -- were to travel through Honshu, and we needed to make a transit at Hong Kong International Airport.

I started shivering in Hong Kong -- at midnight, it got chilly, and it was difficult to sleep without sufficient warmth. 



The architecture for Hong Kong's airport was beautiful.

Hong Kong struck me as a bilingual place, alternating between Cantonese and English. It felt both sufficiently close to Malaysia's culture and sufficiently distant from it, an intermediary between Japan's orderliness and Malaysia's chaotic multicultural blend. You can spot its British postcolonial heritage in its airplanes. In the flight safety video tutorial a white old man wearing a pilot's attire begins by speaking in perfect Queen's English, followed by a younger Chinese man speaking the same thing in Cantonese.

Unlike Malaysia, the colonial and colonized elements of Hong Kong do not seem to have blended. They function in separate worlds, coexisting, but not Creolized. I spotted a Jimmy Choo outlet at Hong Kong airport -- such is the Malaysian economy, capable of producing the minds that make luxury goods, but not able to buy them. 

From Hong Kong we flew to Kansai Airport. The only thing I knew of the Kansai district came from anime, with characters depicted in some way to be louder, more brash. People who spoke in Kansai-ben were said to speak in a twang not unlike that of  American Southerners. I tried to detect that twang when I was there, but I wasn't familiar enough with Japanese to recognize it.



At Kansai I spotted my first autumn trees.

Our first town was Wakayama. It is a small Japanese town, but when we speak of small towns in Japanese terms, it is important to note that it is a small town about the size of Melbourne.





As I looked out of my tour bus window I saw the many things I have come to associate with Japanese urban life through anime: the narrow roads, the electric wires overhead, the many traffic lights. We passed by a school and I spotted the familiar design that I had seen in numerous anime: the clock tower at the centre, the large field in the front of the building. 



At the heart of Wakayama is a castle built during the age of the Sengoku. The site of a seige, the castle was the final standing ground between a group of monks and soldiers against an invading army, with the soldiers on defense putting up a final stand against the invaders, fighting a battle they knew they would lose. The castle has since been converted into a museum.

I climbed to the top of the castle and looked at the town below. After gorging myself on photographs, I put my phone down and watched the scenery. 



The landscape, the cold weather, and the cries of crows resembled the many ukiyo-e paintings and the slice-of-life Japanese cartoons that had formed my imagination of the place. I watched and listened to this scenery in silence, for about one or two minutes, until my aunt called me away. We then had our dinner at Kuroshio Market. 


Osaka was not a place to experience this. We were dropped at Dotonbori, which was crowded, full of people going to and fro. It was raining. I came to recognize the reason for the popularity of transparent umbrellas in Japan: at least I could identify people beneath them, and they made a crowd less faceless. At the street crossings I saw giant screens advertising Japanese pop bands like Momoiro Clover Z. We bought a few things at Wego in Dotonbori; we ate. The waiters and waitresses moved with the efficiency of machines, and when we exited a restaurant it was not from the same place that was its entrance. 

At night we stayed at the Osaka Esaka Tokyu Rei. I had figured out then that my tour guide was fairly useless, since he never explained anything about the context of Wakayama Castle. I had gotten a good rest that night, waking up only to blow my nose and sneeze. 

February 2016

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