In fact, what she really meant was that the TV crew would be showing up at the guest house at around 9:00 pm that night for an extended interview. It was mostly ridiculously fun, a little bit embarrassing, and an an excellent opportunity for me to practice my Japanese! I think I spoke maybe ten minutes of English the whole three days--it was awesome. I got a picture with the whole crew before they headed back to their studio for more shenanigans.
The next day, after a sad farewell to my friends at ODORI, my absentmindedness reared its ugly head once again. I mentioned in my last post that I couldn't get the bus ticket that I had initially reserved because I waited too long to go to the convenience store to pick it up, but I neglected to mention that pretty much every single other bus was booked completely full by that point. I'm not sure why everyone and their mother needed to get back to Tokyo THAT VERY NIGHT, but even when we were looking at tickets several weeks ago, the 23rd of August was already mostly booked.
I was admittedly freaking out a little bit, and when I finally did find a ticket that was relatively inexpensive and leaving on the correct night, I accidentally booked it from the wrong station. So, instead of leaving from Osaka, which would have been the sensible thing to do, I endured the hour-long (and approximately eight dollar) train ride back to Kyoto to catch my night bus (after several hours of twiddling my thumbs during the interim).
From there, I got to see an awesome Ukiyo-e museum with my buddy Tai. It was a small museum, but they were featuring a collection of prints that was seriously impressive. Most of the exhibit was prints by Hiroshige, and they had several of his most famous works on display. Despite the fact that I was smelly and tired, I enjoyed myself immensely. From there, Tai and I puttered around Tokyo, I spent all my money (and then some) and we met up with Amy for dinner. Today was a lazy day and an utterly exhausting three hour trip to my hostel with my obscenely large bags that really did not seem that daunting when I left Denver.
My room is super spacious, as you can see, but that's Tokyo for you. さすが東京だね。
I'm going to be completely honest, because I think that's the way life should be--Japan was not everything I thought it would be.
The Japan I know, the Japan I learned about in my literature classes and studied in my history classes, is gone. The books I've read aren't read anymore. The kabuki plays I wanted to see aren't performed anymore. The buildings I've studied aren't there anymore. For a million and one different reasons, the Japan that exists today is totally different than the Japan I learned about in my university. I can't blame it--it's human nature to progress, to move on, and that's exactly what Japan has done.
It's hard to describe what I'm feeling without using an example, so I will. There's a short story called "A Gray Moon" by Shiga Naoya that I read a couple years ago in one of my classes. It's a post-WWII allegory about a man sleeping on the Yamanote Loop train, a train route that still exists today and makes a loop around the main areas in central Tokyo. He's skinny, and his clothes are ratty, and everyone knows that the reason he's on the train is because everything he had was taken away by the war. People want to help him, but they also want to put the past behind them, and so they ignore him. He sits on the train, endlessly, maybe looking for something or maybe not looking at all.
I sat on the Yamanote Loop train yesterday. I stumbled off the night bus (where I got approximately no sleep, of course) and headed to Harajuku to meet up with my friend Tai, and the most direct route there was the Yamanote Loop. I got on, and eventually enough people got off that I could find a seat, and I rode it for a very long time, pondering what exactly was happening inside my Japanese major heart.
The Yamanote Line, despite being the same line depicted in Shiga's "A Gray Moon", is not the same. The people on the train yesterday were not torn apart by war, they were not impoverished, they were not worried whether they might not have the strength to get off the train. There is no real connection between Shiga's short story and the Yamanote Line as it exists today, just as there is very little connection between the history of Japan that I love and the modern Japan that functions in the current world. I think I came to Japan with misconceptions about what exactly I was going to find here, and it wasn't really fair. In the same way that America's history is not immediately evident by today's daily life, Japan is not superficially defined by its past. Maybe deep down, the Genpei War of 1180 has something to do with how a salaryman lives his life, but it's certainly not obvious.
In that respect, I did not find what I thought I'd find in Japan.
I found a lot more.