I am waiting, like in a limbo. I am waiting to go to Japan and discover it for myself, but I have been busy understanding Japan from friends’ accounts, Netflix series, YouTube videos, a Lonely Planet and a bit of imagination.
Food is universal so I started there. Midnight’s Diner: Tokyo Stories is a Japanese TV series based on the Shinya Shokudō manga. It takes place at a café restaurant that opens at midnight and closes at 7AM. There is no fixed menu but its owner, master chef Kaoru Kobayashi, promises to cook everything a customer likes, as long as he has the ingredients.
The opening sequence has been haunting me for quite some time, for its sheer effectiveness in creating the right mood. You just want to end your busy day and enter this oasis of peace in the middle of Tokyo.
When people finish their day,
and hurry home,
my day starts.
My diner is open from midnight to 7 in the morning.
They call it ‘Midnight Diner”
That’s all I have on the menu,
But I’ll make whatever customers request,
as long as I have the ingredients for it.
That’s my policy.
Do I even have customers?
More that you would expect
At a birthday party held on a wind swept summery night at the beach I met documentary maker Anne Frehes. Anne is currently working on an essay film on Japan’s iconic spring time cherry blossom. She spent last April travelling throughout Japan and made this brilliantly edited Travelogue of the places she visited. The catchy song sets the mood. Her gaze takes us from iconic places to a forgotten and forbidden leisure park. Especially poignant is the scene where a dear is taken care of by city park guards in a land where dears are considered sacred.
Travelogue Japan (2016) from Anne Fehres on Vimeo.
Sakura: An Archetypal Journey is the first of 4 films, each one focused on a season and a different country. It is due to be out in 2018.
Japan in contemporary popular culture
A journey begins much earlier than when you actually go there. It can become a state of mind. So even if my trip has not started yet, in fact it has already as my curiosity started to focus on different aspects of Japanese life.
Dedication given to gardens is something that really intrigues me. The fact that every element of the garden is carefully thought in advance illustrates the patience one needs to design them.
Something I hear a lot about Japan is its culture of vending machines, and their ubiquitous presence everywhere. Japan has the highest amount of vending machines in the world, about 5.6 million. That’s about 1 for every 23 people. Benedikt Partenheimer photographed them at night and you can see his photos from his website below:
Something else that also intrigues me is the frequent sight of people sleeping in the street, this is definitely something I will look for, especially in Tokyo. Here is a visual introduction from Kenji Kawamoto.
People sleeping in the street
My Japan trail
I have a fairly organised trail for Japan and the intention of visiting as many places as possible and end my vacation on the island of Okinawa. I shall make updates and change of plans as I travel to Japan.
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Photo: Sunset in Scheveningen, just before leaving for Japan. CC-BY-SA Beppe Simone