Osaka, walking every step of the way.

We woke up very early at 6:30 am, getting slowly ready (but still very very excitedly) and thinking where we would get breakfast. We were very happy to drop all our bags and just brought with the us essentials like tablets to orientate and water. We decided to go to Namba station, the underground and commercial center was so big that even so early I was sure that we would have found something.

While walking to the metro around 7:30 am, we saw an old guy playing golf inside his own messy car garage with a could see at least 20 balls of golf. It is so incredible to see random unexpected things in Japan like a man with his doggy walking around, both with sun glasses on, human and dog alike!!!!

Unfortunately the metro confused us again, and instead of getting out at Namba we got out at Umeda, but we realized well after breakfast in a “Japanese Bakery” in the underground metro. The Bakery had so many weird and unknown products, and an incredible and delicious smell of garlic all around, the girl at the counter didn’t speak one word of English and the funny thing was that she wasn’t understanding the word “milk” but she got perfectly right the word “latte”. So when in Japan and talking about coffee stuff, just speak Italian!!!! (Figen disappointedly got one coffee without latte, but she got the best bakery piece of the unknown food).

In here I wrote the post about yesterday, we were the only people seated in the place, and everyone was incredibly on the rush in the shop, on the metro corridors. You could compare it exactly to underwater life, where everyone is in movement, never stopping and going everywhere crossing each other paths without slowing down too much.

Other details that I forgot to mention about Japanese life is:

  • When at the table they always serve water or amazing warm green tea without even asking or paying (It is a very kind touch).
  • Even if winter, the water served is filled from a jug full of ice (I guess they don’t like ambience temperature water or maybe they are used to have refrigerated water from the thousands vending machines).
  • Speakers with automatic girl voices are everywhere, so much that one time that we entered an elevator and pushing random buttons trying to understand how to go up, we got scared thinking that the voice was a person actually speaking to us to don’t be rude.
  • There are so many bicycles everywhere that Amsterdam is beaten badly 3:1 ratio, and the wonderful thing is that 90% of those bicycles are not locked whatsoever.
  • Same thing with the umbrella (you can choose the color of white or black, didn’t see any other type so far), hanging around everywhere, for anyone to use.
  • Cars are very narrow in length and a bit higher than normal, it literally feels like a metal box moving on the road.
  • There is no common building structure, you see many different houses from small multi apartments buildings and old style wooden roofed or clay roofed two level houses, just next to each other, and than a super small area with payment parking space for just 4 car. In the outskirts we even saw small patches of cultivable terrains in between the houses, literally growing their own vegetables, and adding a very nice note of nature in between the sad city buildings.
  • People bending to say bye to the older co-working people multiple and multiple time.
  • People sleeping a bit everywhere, from trains, public seats in parks and even into coffee shops. Life must be very hard for them.
  • And last but not least a lot of old people barely walking, but still on their foot and moving slowly like turtles with incredible determination, men and women alike.

So after our stomach were full, Figen decided that our first step would be Osaka Castle and his park. After going up a bit, and the sun finally shining and warming us up, we enjoyed to see how the fortification were built in serpentine matter, and the golden decoration on the castle itself surrounded by a river and a top of the hill, and that touch of nature that was all nearby. We saw a couple of wondering cats, and huge very intelligent black crows that were following us around while we were eating onigiri (small rice triangles filled with variety of stuff).
We didn’t enter the castle we had a tight schedule, but we spent time trying to make successfully contacts with lovely tiny birds by feeding them a bit of rice. The moment we stepped away from the feeding ground to make some photos, our bags were surrounded by the clever two crows. They weren’t menacing, just damn big to not be taken a bit aback.

Next step, DenDen town! The place where electronic of all kind are sold. Only destiny decided to trip our hand by detouring and completely deviated to go to the nearby Tsuntekasku tower and area. Everything was quite slow in the morning, this was clearly a night district, because full of SPA and night entertainments, you get my meaning.

The tower was amazing, a clear symbol with the Glico man of Osaka outline of the city. We go to some stores nearby and we couldn’t resist to buy some kit-kat in offer with orange flavor and tea. Fucking delicious. Something that they don’t sell at all in the western countries of the world and you can find only in Japan. We stopped briefly to a arcade gaming with super retro games like Mario Bros Donkey Kong, Street fighter 1 and tons of others arcade game that I remember clearly like yesterday I played on my Commodore or at Coin op when I was little.

We entered in a renting shop for yukata and kimonos and we made little friend with a very sweet lady, we bought a couple of souvenir and made some funny photos. We stopped at a coffee bar (coffee could be quite expensive here) to recharge ourselves and literally our tablets, to get oriented and realize where the DenDen town is.

GPS confused us again, and we entered successfully DenDen town (the crazy text advertise full of kanji letters and no graphics, in multi store level shops of electronic it is quite daunting). We bought an expensive tablet cover + keyboard so that we could tell properly the story of our trip, and obviously we got in the completely wrong direction and we crossed the line from electronics to manga/anime/games/adult only dvd area. I felt like at home! (A part for the adult only area… obviously!).

This detour was perfect, we saw crazy stuff, crazy Otaku people, crazy dvd and manga, and adult only dolls, super mega advertises of games, like it was the most important next movie show at the same level of Star Wars. I am talking 5 store level of ads of manga or super building wide gaming ad. My people, my area!!! If this was the small and ugly version of Akhibara in Tokyo, I am completely blown away. I am talking of 9 streets x time 3 on the wide streets of stuff. Retro gaming in perfect conditions, new PS4 stuff with tambourine extension to play drums on your PS4, floor after floor of hentai of all kind, stores of beautiful t-shirts of manga and graphic design, maidens bar, cosplay color coded wigs store occupying the whole wall of different lengths (they were selling even props and colored eyes).

Our credit card was shaking of fear, because we would have broken the whole bank account if we weren’t limited by physical space of carrying all stuff with us. Therefore we limited to few small souvenirs (some of Ghibli Studio) to take with us.

We recharged again our energy to a wonderful noodle place around 14:30, and I must tell you if it wasn’t for the excitement we would have dropped dead right there. We carried on, but we stopped again because lost, need of toilette, need of coffee and need of still more resting, in a chain style Starbucks but much more refined called Tully’s. I think that the place was so good that looked incredibly expensive/classy and it wasn’t, comfy and decent coffee, that we will only go again to this chain to take the proper caffeine required to push on this hard days.

Tully’s interesting facts: a tons of students come here to study (amazing school uniforms, I wanted to grab a photo of everyone but I am sure that I would be arrested, lol); they have literally sealed ear ethically smoking room on where you stare at a blank wall to enjoy your cigarette; and even if the place was big it was just an unisex toilette. Obviously free wi-if and plenty of sockets to recharge your devices. I truly believe that in Japan people stare much more to a screen than not to an human face.

It was 16:30 and the aquarium needed to be seen. We were above overwhelmed, and we wanted to rest more at home, but I knew that if we stopped, we would never move out anymore. So we carried on, painfully towards the next destination. Towards one of the biggest aquarium in the world.

I have plenty of pictures, but unfortunately I cannot show because tablets don’t have attachments on where I can download photos from my camera. Needed to be known that, we saw plenty of crazy Mother Nature animals, from tropical to antarctic. We saw Otters try to fuck for minutes unsuccessfully because the male was there hooked very still at the female, and the female couldn’t find the way to plug herself into the proper place (even because of the huge tail), looking forward and backward like crazy, I think that I will never seen Otters with the same kind again… We saw dolphins!!!!! So many of them!!!! A whale shark!!!!!!!! (No teeth I think that they eat plankton) In one of the biggest tanks that I have ever seen full of other sharks and big manta rays. Penguins! Huge mustached Seals! Figen touched the manta ray, while I was completely creeped out from other creatures that I never seen before from the deep. CREEPED OUT!!!! Plenty of beautiful and colorful tropical fish (yes, I am talking finding Nemo and his friends…).

After barely walking, we eat at the close marketplace (by the way, I was so tired at this point that I could barely make any photos, but the whole area had amazing decorative night light, a giant LEGO Giraffe, and a huge multicolored wheel to shame the London Eye). I finally got my Okonomiyaki, and it was amazing, and Figen some more justifiably craving tempura with noodles.

I don’t know how I got home. I fall a sleep hitting the bed, and putting anti blister patches on my feet with the help of my wife. She got to try the Japanese bath, while I was literally dying in bed. I woke up at 5:00 AM current time, and I am writing for more than an hour in the darkness of the room, because I didn’t want to forget this experience. Everything hurts. Figen back as well (she is sweetly sleeping), so I guess the trip of today to Nara & Kyoto will be a more slowed down and relaxed one.

Why Taxi have to be so expensive in Japan!!!! Why?!?!?!?!?!?!?!

A long long flight in an island far away

Per quelli che non comprenderanno l’inglese vi suggerisco do usare google translate.

I am writing from my tablet and it is quite difficult to write long sentences, so god bless suggestion tool. Let’s start.

The trip took the whole day of the 20th to arrive to Japan. We spend it running late to the exchange gate because of thick fog in Amsterdam (we barely saw landing). With us a young Japanese student from Kobe and her mother running across 25 minutes walking path + passport control. I regretted very deeply to be so fat. Anyway we make it on time, all flights were delayed, and after 2 movies and barely sleepless night on the plane (impossible to sleep on uncomfortable seats) we arrive in the morning of 21th at 09.00 (only that for us was 01.00 am in the morning of the day).

Thanks to adrenaline and excitement we rushed through the day until 16:00 Japan time (around 7-8 am Spanish time). We exchanged money, booked all the important trains tickets, got a portable WiFi that already saved our us multiple times on which direction we were going, and explored the area around Namba main train Station of Osaka (a really labyrinthic experience between metro, multilevel underground shopping mall, and rushing crowd), and got safely at our incredibly tiny Airbnb apartment in Kujo. Than we literally collapsed for 4 hours, because those backpacks don’t carry themselves.

We already had an initial taste of Japan when we woke up and we were fascinated by many little details. The incredible amount of places where to eat (highly specialised in a set kind of food), the clean streets regardless that it was impossible to find a single public trashing can (I think that people carry their trash with themselves), the cuteness of men, women and kids alike, and the busy stores of pachinko, gaming Taito buildings, small alley marketplaces with everything for the kitchen (fake plastic food, pottery, knives and swords), and even so impossible to find a place that sold an international electric adapter.

So we decided that the few hours at night needed to be spent in Dotonbori streets lights where we had one of the best tempura of my life (crab tempura!!! Gnammy!!!). The night was very cold while during the day was incredibly sunny. Even so we carried on and wondered about in those busy night streets with no direction or clear objective other than feel lost and be basked in nightlights.

And so we came back early at home to have proper rest (counting as well the usual misdirection that metro thrown at our senses). Shopping in a very late convenience store the small funny things that inspired us like the meat fried stick translated incorrectly by the special photo app in “taste as heaven”, and obviously some Asahi beer. We watch some weird Japanese TV, and than we passed out again, hoping to lose definetly the last remain of jetlag.


La notte prima del sol levante

Tutto è pronto. Fotocamera ricaricata e lenti pulite. Zaino pieno di roba super invernale che non ho mai indossato prima, perchè lí nevica di brutto e qui a Barcellona il tempo è sembre abbastanza decente. Kindle pieno con le informazioni di dove, come e cuando fare le cose in posti sconosciuti con gente che parla lingue incomprensibili ed impossibili da tradurre. Vari accessori caricati ed un paio di libri elettronici pronti da leggere. Visto una montagna di video di come comportarsi, di come seguire la propria etiquette giapponese ai ristoranti, come utilizzare i gabinetti ultramoderni che ti puliscono tutto, come lavarsi nei bagni pubblici e privati, ed anche come aprire luccheti con chiavi speciali per accedere ai vari appartamenti affitati (perchè non incontrari nessuno a darti le chiavi di casa in mano in Giappone). La playlist di musiche da viaggio è stata fatta di fretta con canzoni terribilmente diverse, alcune giapponesi ed alcune semplicemente nuove e ribelli. Come al solito tutto è pronto anche se quasi all’ultimo minuto, piú o meno tra le 12 e 15 ore di viaggio davanti a me domani mattina dopo 6 ore potenziali di sonno da poter utilizzare.

Potenziali, perchè l’eccitamento, le paure e la voglia di non tornare sapendo di dover tornare, sono cose difficili da mettere giú su un cuscino e lasciarle lí a perdersi nell’oblio dei sogni che non ricordi.

Quindi scrivo prima che mi dimentichi, ed un’altro giorno passi uguale a quello di prima perchè dimenticato e senza traccia (se non quella elettronica su un calendario gmail di eventi alquanto anonimo).

Domani vado dove il signor Tiziano Terzani è giá stato. Dove questo non è mai stato? La luna direi. Lui con la fascinazione dell’oriente, ed io anche, ma con il vantaggio di internet e con lo svantaggio di non aver ancora il coraggio di uscire permanentemente dal continente europeo. Eppure è lí che si agita dentro di me, la voglia di andare e tirarmi in luoghi inaspettati, piena di gente diversa con pensieri diversi vivendo paure e speranze diverse.

Il Giappone. Cresciuto ed educato moralmente con i cartoni giapponesi, con le storie di manga ed avventure di videogiochi di eroi sconosciuti se non a pochi nerd come me, mi rendo conto che ne sono terribilmente attratto ed influenzato da quest’isola che tratta le persone come automi robotici senza personalitá, dove la comunitá viene prima dell’individualitá e dove la dicotomia di moderno e tradizione vive in parallelo. Un paese di giungle fatte di cemento  terribilmente sovrappopolate e pieni di posti con natura incontaminata dove il cambio delle stagioni sono momenti di celebrazione e gioia.

Non credo che riusciró a dormire. Quando sono andato in Tailandia ridevo istericamente di piacere con me stesso, letteralmente come un matto. Nessuno se ne era accorto sull’aereo, e tutto questo era perchè ero terribilmente adrenalinico dall’idea di me, dall’altra parte de mondo, con un mondo a mia disposizione da navigare, manipolare e da interactuare. L’ignoto piú che spaventare mi affascina, come le vertigini di un burrone che ti paralizzano per il terrore ma che allo stesso tempo ti fanno sentire vivo. Non ne vedo il lato oscuro, ma solo il lato del possibile con pensieri come “tutto quello che potrei fare” e “tutti gli angoli di strade sconosciute da girare e da scoprire” ed ancora “tutti i sapori ed odori che non ho ancora assaggiato”. Ed il Giappone per me è molto piú radicato in me che non la Tailandia. Sono giorni e giorni che nella mia testa mi sto esaltando ed una voce dentro di me che mi dice senza interrompersi “non voglio tornare”, “non voglio tornare”, “non voglio tornare”. È una ossessione di piacere nella mia testa. Una ossessione, di sua natura, per nulla positiva, ma è lí che si agita e muove dentro di me, nello stomaco, nei miei pensieri, nel farmi sentire ancora voglia di qualcosa dalla vita.

Ecco credo di essere innamorato dell’idea. Stesso tipo di ossessione dell’amore, non puoi smetterne di pensare, non puoi smetterne di volerlo, dove tutto quello che vedi e senti ti ricorda di quella persona che non vorresti pensare. Non oso immaginare il dolore che proveró ad andarmene da lí. Eppure só logicamente di tutte le difficoltá che il Giappone rappresenta, dalla incredibile chiusura verso gli stranieri che i giapponesi hanno, alle ore folli di lavoro che fanno per vivere in posti piccolissimi vivendo sempre in transito e nascondendo le proprie emozioni fino addiriturra suicidarsi perchè incapaci di esprimersi anche alle persone vicine, perchè il Giappone è un mondo che solo i giapponesi possono capire.  Eppure la logica non ha assolutamente potere quando hai una emozione cosí forte dentro di te.

Perchè io lo voglio, fortissimamente volli. E non ho assolutamente idea ancora di come ottenerlo. Credo che improvviseró.

Inoltre immagino che dovró darmi a qualcosa che normalmente odio ed evito come la peste, la meditazione. Io non posso stare fermo, con la mia mente, nonostante sia capace di stare incredibilmente fermo con il mio corpo per settimane. Immagino che anche non usare il proprio corpo per sfogare certe emozioni non aiuti. Comunque sia, vedró di meditare quei 10 minuti necessari per trovare l’equilibrio interiore per mantenermi meno ossessionato di quello che dovrei. Cercheró dei parchi in Giappone o dei posti dove chiudere gli occhi e sentire lo scorrere del tempo, ed io immobile nel centro di quel flusso. Quello stare fermo è come un movimento controcorrente in un mondo dove andare sempre avanti vero obiettivi senza fine, sará la mia pace di vivere e stabilizzarmi nell’adesso.

Musiche come quella di Ryuichi Sakamoto, mi aiuteranno a rilassarmi e toccarmi il cuore. Alle volte bisogna dover soffrire per imparare a lasciare andare le cose, ed il piano “Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence” è perfetta per questo scopo. Specialmente perchè sono sempre stato nel mio interiore un tipo alquanto malinconico quando solo con me stesso. E mi rendo conto solo adesso che è anche per questo adoro Debussy, malinconico ed armonioso, tranquillo e controllatamente tumultuoso, terribilmente dolce ed amaro come una rottura di speranze.

Il giappone. Sará uno schock. Sará un “Lost in translation” totale. Sará una mancanza incredibile di olio d’oliva e formaggi, di sentirsi incapace di leggere un testo ed esprimersi comprensibilmente, di sentirsi sempre piú isolato nonostante nel centro di una folla. Sará un elettroshock riuscire a fare amicizie di minuti con altre persone che cercano anche loro un contatto. Sará un terremoto orientarsi in un posto dove non comprendi le regole. Sará perció tutto eccitante e nuovo. Credo di essere un junkie (dipendente) dell’inaspettato, “voglio ogni giorno mezzo etto di inaspettato grazie buon’uomo”. E non voglio farne a meno, voglio quel mezzo etto direttamente dalla fonte della miglior qualitá possibile.

Non andró nei posti super turistici, odio le folle e le file è tempo perso che non si recupera. Alcune cose ovvie le faró, peró quello che voglio di piú è perdermi per i vicoli ed incontrare per via di esperienze gli angoli da fare miei. Angoli che per me saranno speciali perchè avró percorso centinaia di metri in direzioni sconosciute prima di scoprirli. L’arrivare non è l’obiettivo, è il perennemente andare a trovare che ci rende felici. O forse mi sbaglio perchè alla fine saremmo una roccia che rotola che non si ferma piú. Ho voglia di incontrare gente e farne parte della loro vita per quei pochi minuti e chiedere “e tu come stai? dove vai?” e spendere poi ore a pensare se quella vita mi calzerebbe.

Viaggiare, volare ed atterrare ma giusto per il momento di riprendere le forze per buttarsi di nuovo tra le nuvole. Credo que in questi ultimi anni sono stato troppo con i piedi a terra, e con la testa tra le gambe. Si predica e pensa sempre meglio di quello che si fá. Per questo meditare credo che aiuti, non credo che esisti una app. che ti obbliga a stare a faccia a faccia per dialogare con se stesso.

Uno dei miei desideri è scrivere piú spesso. E perció scriveró e voleró con la mia mente piú spesso per me stesso, nonostante la mia grammatica ed il mio italiano sia sempre pessimo. Non ho tempo ne pazienza di rileggermi e corregermi quando il flusso delle emozioni e delle idee sono sulla punta delle mie dita.

Quindi andiamo suvvia a viaggiare. Buona notte per alcuni e buon giorno per altri. E come diceva Tolkien prima che Bilbo esca dalla porta di quella casa verso luoghi sulla strada ignota di un’avventura senza tempo:

“Roads go ever ever on,
Over rock and under tree,
By caves where never sun has shone,
By streams that never find the sea;
Over snow by winter sown,
And through the merry flowers of June,
Over grass and over stone,
And under mountains in the moon.

Roads go ever ever on,
Under cloud and under star.
Yet feet that wandering have gone
Turn at last to home afar.
Eyes that fire and sword have seen,
And horror in the halls of stone
Look at last on meadows green,
And trees and hills they long have known.

The Road goes ever on and on
Down from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the Road has gone,
And I must follow, if I can,
Pursuing it with eager feet,
Until it joins some larger way,
Where many paths and errands meet.

The Road goes ever on and on
Down from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the Road has gone,
And I must follow, if I can,
Pursuing it with weary feet,
Until it joins some larger way,
Where many paths and errands meet.
And whither then? I cannot say.

The Road goes ever on and on
Out from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the Road has gone.
Let others follow, if they can!
Let them a journey new begin.
But I at last with weary feet
Will turn towards the lighted inn,
My evening-rest and sleep to meet.”