I was awaken to someone gently shaking me and calling my name, a familiar voice. I squinted open an eye and saw an unfamiliar futon and small room; I began to come to and remembered I had arrived in Japan a few hours, days, minutes ago...I wasn't sure. I hadn't even known I'd fallen asleep. The weirdest thing was, I was visiting a pen pal and yet here was my college roomate's high school forms waking me up. I had last seem him back in America, at a college party. We were good friends and umm...sometimes a. It more when tipsy. I knew he, K, knew my pen pal, M. She visited me and I introduce the two. Sure just cause they're both Japanese they will get along? No...that wasn't my thought, just hey M here are my friends and oh, K is from Japan. Anyways. My point is I had no clue they kept in contact so suddenly being awaken by a friend who was my friend back home seemed familiar except that it was in an unfamiliar place and time, totally unexpected.
It was New Years Eve, "the" holiday in Japan, so we set out to the club district of Shinjuku. My jet lag was in full swing, an foreign tongues, bright lights, and everything and crowded, mixed with some alcohol and familiar but misplaced faces made it all the more surreal.
I got hungry and we popped into a 7-11, yet another familiar but misplaced thing, eating Cup O Noodles in a dark drug-area alley beneath a love hotel.
It was some time between two and five in the morning and subways don't operate at that hour. I have been to so many cities where public transportation ends right when people who best not be driving are, well, stuck driving. Well, a license in Japan is expensive, cars impractical, so we were stuck. I think we wandered the streets until dawn. Think.
See, Japan is all kind of a blur. I know I didn't sleep on the plane, but I blocked it all out of memory. I remember the customs sign at the airport and then suddenly I was at M's friend's apartment with K shaking me awake.
I remember the next day, eating at Yoshinoya, and having only the equivalent of $50 on me (which gets you nowhere in Japan) and finding out everything is pretty much closed for the week of New Years. Week? No way to get money for a week? This was not in the travel guides.
Luckily the airport was the one place within a hundred miles with he capability for me to cash in my travel checks, so I had to bum money off friends to afford the train ride to the airport.
I fell asleep on the train. I remember it was very crammed but I had managed to find a seat and I slumped into my suitcase, hundreds of strangers this close to me, also nodding asleep in Tokyoite fashion.
I don't remember the cash exchange.
See, Japan was like one big case of amnesia.
I sang karaoke in a karaoke bar. I are ramen, the real stuff not the freeze dried junk, in a restaurant no bigger than my bathroom, where you ordered your food from a vending machine but her got food from a real chef a few inches away. The restaurant was tucked under the freeway...like...under...
I shopped the big new year sales where pubescent rave-looking, platinum blond irks screamed things in Japanese at a pitch I think only dogs could hear.
I crossed the road in those huge sidewalks where a thousand people cross at one time.
I visited a sex shop in an alley, the store smaller than my closet (no I didn't buy anything and I felt like I really sent belong there).
I unknowingly ate crab brains and horse tongue in a bar/grill place.
I encountered many weird statues like foxes and Buddhas just tucked into the corners all over Tokyo.
I started to understand the subway maps after just three days.
For some reason the huge expanse d Tokyo, with all its high rises and masses if people and urban sprawl as far as the eye can see, seemed...not so much. It was again that amnesia, to where Tokyo seemed no more than downtown Los Angeles. Even New York City seemed waaaay bigger.
I went to many temples, got my fortune told (but no one would translate for me) ate fried who knows what, and attended a tea ceremony-an honor, but I liked the vending machine tea better. Vending machines, with hot tea and coffee!
I took the worlds slowest train to Kyoto, stopping at every city, town,two horse outpost. I took the bullet train back to Tokyo.
Sure this travelogue is disjointed but really, it represents Japan for me...my memories were little vignettes of this and that. And it was only ten years ago!