It’s very surreal to finally be standing in Japan. Since before I even booked the flights I’d been imagining what it’d be like to get to be here, and sometimes even felt like I’d already taken the holiday.
I feel a mixture of comfort and alienation. There’s parts of myself that I get to express here that it’s more difficult to express in New Zealand. I feel a comfort being surrounded by the language, and the culture that I’ve obviously somehow absorbed at least bits of during my life. This comfort throws into sharp relief the bits where I get it absolutely painfully wrong. But most people are kind and very helpful, which is soothing when I find myself out of my depth with the language or customs.
I’m pleased with how much my study has paid off. I felt like I hadn’t been as diligent as I could or should have been, but even the work I have done has helped immensely. I feel like I understand a little more every day, and I’m getting more confident in speaking, even if I know there will be big gaps and mistakes in my language.
A few notes so far:
The Ryokan we stayed at first was lovely. Our room was just enough space to fit us side by side with a bit of space at either end. Both Jake and I love being in closed spaces, and with space being at a premium everywhere in Japan we’re definitely going to be a lot more comfortable.
Ghibli museum was beautiful but very different to what I imagined. While there were homages to each of the movies, the museum itself has its own life and history. It’s compact and the inside feels like an amazing old villa with very Ghibli-esque touches. The building has a beautiful atmosphere and every detail has been crafted with care and purpose. The stained glass windows that frame the building feature characters from all the films and I’m sure many people had hunted them out.
All of the captions are in Japanese only, but there’s enough of an atmosphere that the meaning is easy to understand. I almost had a wee cry in front of the watercoloured storyboards and the recreation of Miyazaki’s office space.
There’s so much I need to work on, but I always knew that’d be the case. This trip isn’t the beginning or the end of my relationship with Japan or my Japanese heritage.
I’ve been stressed and nervous and sweatier than I have ever been in my life, but it’s all been worth it. The people have been kind and helpful, and it’s been great to see the country through my own two eyes, It feels like a weird sort of homecoming where I know I’m home but no one else does.
It’s getting easier every day. We’re in Kobe now and it’s got such a wonderful energy to it, I’ll have more to say about this second leg of our trip soon,
If you’re interested in pictures, you can follow along on my Instagram account.