Monday, October 20, 2008

Kyoto Day 9 or Gunma Day 1, take your pick

Thursday, September 25th 2008

Breakfast in Kyoto with Alice was at a place called "Speakeasy." Yes, as in the establishments that covertly served alcohol during the American prohibition. Guess what kind of cuisine it serves? Right, American. As in a real, American-style breakfast of French toast paired with organic coffee.

Speakeasy's a lovely little--and I mean little--place, if you're wandering the streets off Shijou and in the mood for some familiar-looking food.

After a taxi took me to the eki, and I learned that some taxis in Kyoto do allow you to pay your fare via a credit card. Wow. It still remains difficult for foreigners in Japan to get Japanese credit cards, but most places in bigger cities are more than happy to swipe your plastic when you pay for goods.

No pictures from today, as most of it was spent on the shinkansen. One from Kyoto to Tokyo, and another from Tokyo to Omiya--where I was to meet my dear friend, Yukiko. See, Yukiko has moved up through the ranks of the company I once worked for and now is a trainer. Omiya is where KPC's Saitama prefecture office is, and I was stationed in the nearby Kumagaya for five months in 2002. (The other three being spent in Niihama, Ehime which is on the smallest island of Shikoku.)

Saitama, and even more so Gunma, are the heart of my Japan. It's not so much the location, of course, as it is the people who live there. They keep that heart beating. I don't just mean the people I know. Gunma residents are cool. They're relaxed and friendly. I had really great time in Kyoto, but there's something odd about Kansai. It's not normal to be disappointed when you realize someone is a foreigner because you were hoping they were a demon of some kind. Truth be told, Kansai people are just more vocal about things. There's always a possibility that someone will take advantage of the language barrier and say the most amazing things because they think you can't understand, but it's less likely to happen in a place like Gunma. For the reason that no one goes on vacation to Gunma (except for me.) So a foreigner is there, that foreigner probaby speaks Japanese.

Anyway to make up for the lack of pictures, here is a poem:

Japan is a train
slicing through the fields; onwards
to the next city.

Also, I have come to appreciate mobile phones. Not having one in Japan didn't bother me except for two incidents. The first occurred this day, when I tried to meet Yukiko at The Loft in Omiya. You would think we wouldn't have much trouble finding each other, but you'd be surprised how difficult it can be for two foreign-ish looking people to find each other in a store.

From Omiya (Saitama,) we rode the local train to Takasaki (Gunma.) That's where the nostalgia is in full force, as the Takasaki line was my main line of transport while I lived in Japan. The Omiya station has changed a lot, as has the Takasaki station, but enough remains the same to be jarring. It's like the ghost of my former life is haunting. I keep turning and expecting to see someone I know.

On the train, I told Yukiko about signing with Miriam. Finishing the TOKYOPOP contract and going out on submission with the adult manuscript. Yukiko, of course, says what any good neesan who's not really your neesan would say... that she's proud of me and she wants to read the books.

A bike ride through the darkness, that equalizing shade of night in the Japanese countryside that makes everything familiar in obscurity. Companions are once again the comforting weight of a sky full of stars and the whirl of the kinetic bicycle light measuring out distance.

We eat in a place that has no English menus. As children run the tiny length of the restaurant, the adults drink. Blue smoke drifts around the ceiling.

It's like I never left. It's like I've come home by understanding "home" is not a geographical location.

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