see a dream trip to Japan
Ever since I was lucky enough to make trips to China and Japan in the late seventies and early eighties, I’ve dreamed about going back – especially to Japan. Those trips were work – a party from the Inner London Education Authority was invited by the Ministries of Education in Beijing and Tokyo to run a series of lectures and workshops for teachers. They worked us hard and I think we gave them value for money but there was only a very little time for sightseeing. But what I did manage to see of Japan in particular gave me a lasting hunger to return.
Then discovering more of Japan through its literature provided a way of staving off the hunger. An earlier Japan was evoked in novels by Kobo Abe, Akutagawa, Kawabata and Tanizaki who each brought the country to life through superb description and the painting of atmosphere. In the sixties there was a cult following for Yukio Mishima who gave completely new insights into a different Japan. And then I discovered Murakami (Haruki that is) and the desire to visit and explore grew stronger with every new book. The twin wishes to return to Japan myself and to share my excitement for the country with Dee who is equally hooked, have grown steadily. Time, budget and circumstances have contrived against it until now.
Somehow this year I will celebrate a major milestone birthday – my biblical span is up. I can’t really believe it but my birth certificate has inscribed in that beautiful, long-lost functionary script my date of birth in July 1943. So it must be true. We’ll actually be in Japan for Dee’s birthday but perhaps I’ll join in early and, who knows, just carry on until the due date.
Our Murakami pursuit will take us on a Wild Sheep Chase and a right old Dance, Dance, Dance in Hokkaido in the north, extensive forays into Tokyo and several other parts of Honshu and down to Shikoku to pursue Kafka, Nakata and Johnnie Walker from Kafka on the Shore. In addition to this we were both in the process of reading Tan Twan Eng’s Booker candidate Garden of the Evening Mists and an existing interest in Japanese gardens, reawakened on a recent visit to Tatton Park, became even stronger. So a lovely gift of a few years ago 1001 Gardens You Must Visit Before You Die came off the shelf and the itinerary expanded to include at least three of the country’s most highly regarded gardens: Kenrokuen at Kanazawa on the western China Sea coast; Korakuen in Okayama overlooking the Inland Sea and Ritsurin Koen in Takamatsu on Shikoku Island. Well at least we’d intended to go to Takamatsu since Kafka on the Shore is largely set there.
Early in 2013 it became clear that a space in our work schedules would permit a sensible length trip to Japan in April and May. It would also afford us an opportunity of visiting my son and daughter-in-law who are living in Hong Kong. We had been working for some time on an itinerary that would take in many of the locations we knew through reading – especially those of Murakami. We needed a month to do it justice. We’d picked the most expensive time to travel since we include Golden Week in our dates with no less than five national holidays and the time when all Japanese go travelling. It’s also of course smack in the middle of hanami – the cherry blossom viewing season.
Ah well, best bite the bullet (train) and see what can be done.
Then the other day walking to meet some fellow Watford supporters for a City ‘Orns monthly drinks and dinner I came across this in the middle of Bloomsbury!
Who needs to go to Japan?