Japan and Unexpected Surprises

So, life got busy for a while.

Now I’m living the dream.  Seriously.

I got back from Japan a few days ago to discover that I got the job I wanted and that a suite of poems I wrote (you may remember I absolutely hate poetry) was actually highly commended and it was recommended I think about publication avenues. So happy days for me!

Wheeee! We're actually leaving!

Wheeee! We’re actually leaving!

Japan was pretty awesome. We had a fabulous time and it really highlighted how inefficient some of our systems are, not to mention how badly we’re being gouged on prices.  I don’t know who started the rumour that Japan was an expensive place to go, but believe me – IT’S NOT! Not anywhere near close to being expensive.  I actually only spent half of the money I’d saved. The exchange rate when I changed all my money into yen was $1AUD = 96 Yen, so I’m operating on pretty much a 1:1 ratio. Imagine our surprise when we walk into a 7/11 after finally arriving in Kyoto after 10pm, desperate for a drink and some food to tide us over til morning to be faced with this:

Heart attack inducing... also no good for resolution to stay away from it.

Heart attack inducing… also no good for resolution to stay away from it.

Yes, that’s a 600ml Coke for sale for ¥129.  So roughly $1.40 AUD.  For comparison, the same sized bottle at the BP Service Station down the road is $4.80. That’s a $3.40 difference, or almost enough for two extra bottles at Japanese prices. What the fuck, Australia? We actually went for melon Fanta and bought an icecream and a chocolate eclair to go with it (mainly because it was late, I was tired and I had no idea what anything else was because my Japanese is terrible). Total price? ¥470. I repeat, WHAT THE FUCK, AUSTRALIA? That would cost triple that at home.  And thus began our education that Australia is shafting us with their prices. And it’s not even a “transport” issue, because almost every restaurant was advertising “100% Tasmanian Beef”.

It wasn’t even food that was ridiculously cheap. It was everything.

Do you know how much it cost me to get on a train between Osaka and Kyoto? $8. That’s 50+km between stations and a 23 minute train ride. Where I live it costs $6 to catch a bus from my house and go 10km to the damn city.

Entry to shrines, temples, zen gardens? No more than ¥600/$6 and most were actually free.  And where does that money go? From what I can see it goes right back to funding preservation and restoration efforts.  I don’t think I went to a single historical site in Japan, and I went to a few, that wasn’t meticulously cared for.  The lengths that they were going to at Higashi Honganji temple in central Kyoto were almost as impressive as the temple itself! They’d constructed an ENTIRE BUILDING around the parts of the temple they were restoring! We don’t do that in Australia. When Herries Hospital in Cairns got Heritage listed it sat there rotting for years before anyone bothered to do anything about it (see here). Now they’ve finished “restoration” it’s basically an entirely new building with bugger all original pieces left. Right now Boort Primary School’s historical building is on track to be bulldozed because the education department doesn’t want it anymore (there’s a petition to change that here). The entry fee to Herberton Historical Village is $27 per adult. The entry fee to Port Arthur is $70 per adult. I would happily pay these prices again because I loved them both and think they’re actually worth it, but comparatively, they’re absurd.

Higashi Honganji, yes that incongruous building in the background is the building OVER the temple

Higashi Honganji, yes that incongruous building in the background is the building OVER the section being restored

Anyway, so we ran around taking mad selfies at all the cool stuff and shaking our head at how cheap stuff was.

Like this!

Like this! Sorry Evie, you look terrible. I look good though :p

 

We shopped for two days in Osaka, visiting all the Lonely Planet recommended hotspots of Shinsaibashi, Dotonbori, Amerika-Mura (don’t bother) and DenDen Town. Shinsaibashi/Dontonbori is HUGE. Seriously expansive. We were there for 12 hours in that spot alone and we STILL didn’t get to see everything/buy all the shinies.

It's pretty cool at night too

It’s pretty cool at night too

Fushimi Inari Shrine

Fushimi Inari Shrine

We spent the better part of a week visiting the historical and interesting sites around Kyoto. We went to Kinkaku-ji, Daitoku-ji, Nijo Castle, the Imperial Palace, Fushimi-Inari, Gion (the Geisha District), Kitano Tenman-gu (with bonus awesome markets!), Shosei-en Gardens, Maruyama Park, Yasaka Shrine, etc etc.

Fushimi-Inari shrine nearly killed Evie, who is less used to strenuous physical exercise than I am. It should be renamed the Shine of Twenty Zillion Steps instead of Torii gates.  But we made it to the top and she was most excited to have finally gotten there.

You should have seen her five minutes earlier hehe

Quick! Pull your best Billy Idol face

Then we went to Tokyo to discover that nerd culture is well and truly alive and well, and dare I say it, embraced! We spent the majority of our time in Akihabara, wandering through multistorey anime and manga stores as well as their plethora of toy stores.

We spent a lot of time inside Sega

We spent a lot of time inside Sega…

We also found out that a lot of the things we were into as kids that no other Australian kid seems to remember, are alive and well and cherished in Japan. Like Tranzor-Z! Who could forget Tranzor-Z, apart from everyone without the surname of Elms? What wasn’t to like about a cartoon where the bad guy, Count Decapito, carried his head underneath his arm and his sidekick Devleen was a he/she split down the middle hybrid and everyone piloted giant robots? THIS WAS AWESOME! Apparently it is actually called Mazinger-Z in Japan and Count Decapito is much less amusingly named. Evie and the brother in between us, Malcolm, still to this day talk about shit from Tranzor-Z. So imagine my utter delight to find this:

Tranzoooooor Zeeeeeeeeeeeee

Tranzoooooor Zeeeeeeeeeeeee

Sadly our time then came to an end and we had the awesome trouble of trying to fit all the masses of stuff we’d bought into our bags.  See, we went over with no bags (it was going to add $100 to the ticket price!) so we only paid for baggage coming back. 15kg each. Um. Well.  We both spent excessively and bought so much stuff that this is what happened…

How was this going to happen?

How was this going to happen? Yes we had to BUY luggage.

But we managed.

Tetris Level - Grandmaster.

Tetris Level – Grandmaster.

 

When I got to Narita International, I realised that I’d been paid. I also hadn’t come anywhere close to spending all of my money. The temptation to buy a ticket and go somewhere else for another two weeks was overwhelmingly strong. Vancouver and Helsinki were both looking pretty good. If Evie hadn’t been there, I have no doubt I would have run away.  I had two weeks left at my construction job before I started at the hospital. I still didn’t know where, or which hospital, just that I started on the 16th June.  I’d had such a good time, I hadn’t had to deal with any stress and my daily thunderous headaches that made me think I was developing a brain tumour had disappeared. I pretty much concluded that their cause was dealing with incompetent, lazy and deliberately obstructive, rude and antagonistic people at work and thus I wasn’t in a hurry to get back to them. Alas, I went for the responsible decision and came home.

Yar!

But I did get to set up all the One Piece figures I’d collected for the princely sum of $75 (screw you Australia, again).

But I came home to the good news that I got the job that I had been practically begging for and beyond excellent marks for that suite of poems. Actually, when I got the marks and feedback for the poems I cracked it a little. I wrote one of them as a sarcastic “fuck you” to someone who was annoying me at the time so it was extremely hilarious to me.  Next week I’ll be moving from full time work/full time uni down to part time work/part time uni and still earning the same money. This translates as lots of time for me to finally focus on the artistic endeavours I’ve been putting off… like finishing my novel.

I’m going to be so mad if it turns out that I’m actually talented at poetry instead of writing stories. I already have some hipster glasses, maybe I should get a beret, just in case?

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