“Why only in Japan I feel so strange”

Says Sergey Korol: “Roland Barthes in “Empire of signs” said that countless sea of possibilities forms a system, which shimmers in the distance, isolated from the outside world. And her name — Japan. William Gibson has called you a default future that is created by the collective imagination and the unconscious. I’m not saying anything and just sitting in the rain at the bus stop under the pedestrian crossing buzzer twang on an incredibly nasty note. What the hell I’m going down here every year? Finally how to dry your shoes?”

All countries as countries, and you island. All of the city as a city, and you’re the machine, the factory inconvenient existence, like a dream, Le Corbusier, desperate and turned inside out. The precarious world of neon and concrete. City-wardrobe in which do not fit my stuff. The human anthill, in which I bug. Beetle in wet shoes. I sit and think about Andre Hendrix, who was unable to find in Tokyo his seat, bought at my favorite hardware store “Tokyu Hands” round piece of vinyl two meters in diameter and wore it everywhere, spreading.

For four years, and three times our relations have passed all stages: from enchantment to disillusionment and back. Only this time, I learned to realize Japan is relatively sober. I overlaid a collection of essays and books about the history of Tokyo, I bought cameras and pocket knives with rough edges, I brought a skirt and men have forgotten the traditional and forbidden in the Luggage of a pack of matches. I also brought two dozen rolls of film, some of my impressions and observations.


From Berlin to Japan direct flights only with a connection. I love aviation and so I chose flight to fly interesting aircraft I: go on “Airbus A350” back on the “Dreamliner”.

Flew from Berlin to transplant in Helsinki. It was the last day of the bankrupt “air Berlin”. Flights are constantly delayed and cancelled, ours was delayed for two hours, destroying this small change at the Helsinki airport. A number of Italian grandfather long kept bugging me, which means “flight was canceled”.


An important part of flying to Tokyo is a trip on the city train line Keisei. It somehow mysteriously goes on tiny paddy fields, past houses, dives into an underground tunnel under the airport and after another hour goes past the fields and houses, which gradually grow into the metropolis of greater Tokyo. In the path of the train all hooked and addicted to the low figures in white medical masks, flicking transparent umbrellas with droplets of autumn rain. I look at it in great fatigue and joy, constantly falling asleep sitting with his head resting on the suitcase, exhausted from a nine hour flight and eight-hour dzhetlaga.

Walking around Tokyo, you very rarely will see a monument (if not to count the same type of Shinto shrines), which is quite surprising for the largest city in the world. This is largely due to psychology of the Japanese. Matter is not the monument itself, but the feeling of continuity, constancy and stability, even in changing and originality. This principle of love show at the temple of ISE, which is completely destroyed and rebuilt every 20 years — but for the Japanese, remains exactly the same monument, and a century ago. The flow of the immutability of the more important things. And the whole life of Japanese flows in this stream directed on its preservation. In the latest rebuilding of the ISE Jingu Shrine in 1993 was attended by more than 200 thousand people.

Joris Bakhru writes that there are two types of cultures: one builds towers and the other not. In cultures with towers in the cities, there is a noticeable center (where is this tower). In Japan, the towers do not put. Distribution, invariance, inexpressiveness, the philosophy of personal space is more important. In the heart of Tokyo — the Imperial Palace, hidden in a Park on the island, the emptiness and vacuum. There night not even the light of the world.

I can easily distinguish in the crowd of a foreigner, even if he looks like a Japanese — Western people a different posture and gait. We walk more freely, our step softer, back straighter. Western people are like the Panthers of penguins.

Japanese fussiness and compactness with lots of voltage disturbances, which is erected in the absolute. Narrow shoes and tight collar shirt sarariman, tight lingerie, rough cloth school costumes. And when the Japanese dressed relatively comfortably, if he tries to compensate it by speed of the movements and fussiness. The postman is always running, pushing a cart with packages. On the truck of the transport company “Kura neko so-o-bin” painted the cutest logo in the world — a cat carrying its kitten. We Japanese have a lot in common: we really do not know how to relax.

Tokyo is a city of stairs. Under the influence the destructive kantō earthquake and the bombings during the Second world war in the planning regulations included the requirement for rapid evacuation. And the way this evacuation exterior steel stairs of all shapes and forms. I wonder how this combined with the fact that during strong earthquakes the stairs are the first to fall.

When the earthquake finds the Japanese in a bar, they only raise their glasses to beer without spilling. When our rental apartment was shaking from the building works next door, A. defiantly slept in linen — to avoid being found naked under the rubble. But by the second night we were used to. You like sleeping in the train. On the ninth floor.

Surprising that Tokyo is complete without a plan of the building. Urban plans and other conversions in Tokyo, too. This prevents the extremely high cost of land in the city and strict laws on the protection of private property. To take and raze a couple of blocks in order to build a Park or pave a bike path? It’s just unthinkable enterprise. But Tokyo is like not stopping at all. The city lives and develops on their own — and doing it rather well.

The Japanese is revisadas nation. How funny noticed Christian Frano, “it seems that half of Tokyo is living in a state of endless jetlag. Here is a road worker came into the shop-conbini for rice cake, ate it and fell asleep standing up, leaning back against the gray concrete of the adjacent building. Here a girl is sleeping over a low narrow table, Starbucks, curled up like a dead spider. About the subway and say nothing — at any time of the day third of the passengers are sleeping, often on the shoulders of each other. It looks like it robs people of time, and they sneak otvarivayut, win him back as you can.”

One of the most notable things in Tokyo is a myriad of tiny grocery stores, konbini. Them in the city, tens of thousands, one shop in Tokyo on 1800. Each area with the average Russian apartment, inside a dozen of shelves with the Essentials: rice, bystrosbornye noodles, soda, alcohol, pastries. In the corner sits a stand with magazines and manga. At the checkout there is a small plate, which turns boring duty sausage. And it all works around the clock, like a little machine. Day to day, from year to year.

Konbini open on the ten-year franchise. Usual the owners are a couple of older Japanese who are investing in the shop your savings. However, a huge, severe competition often reduces the profit from the ownership of the shop to zero. The owners have a difficult struggle with rivals, closing and opening stores in the subtle flair of demand. Well, Tokyo is every day in conbini for rice cakes, beer and stupid vitamin beverages for vitality.

Tokyo — very quiet and empty town without a center and often without tangible system devices, it can stretch for tens of kilometers without any changes. To understand Tokyo topography plays a big role lowlands, Suribachi. The plateau on which the Tokyo, places the indentation is low — and they share their own special life.

The ancient topography of the city influenced the place of residence of Tokyo. Wealthy people, the samurai and the representatives of the shogun settled on the hills, and ordinary citizens living compactly in the valley, in Suribachi. Such a system largely survived to this day. Only now, on the crests of the hills are office buildings and skyscrapers.

Suribachi is tight, local areas, consisting of small private houses. Due to the fact that the earth is cut into many tiny pieces, they are difficult to redeem under major construction. Residents falling into their small homes on the steep roads and even stairways and live there with his life. Suribachi the most interesting areas for walking. Roll goes, I go.

Japan seems like a country that either haven’t even joined the fight for gender equality, or had lost it. The number of working women reduced the number of women politicians dangles near zero, and the rare successful women to come to the meeting with the words that we de need to take better care of our men.

In Japan, about half of women have higher education. Record result!

In Tokyo strongly developed small production, games-Koba — a tiny little factories in a dozen employees, which are typically located on the first floors of houses. Today in Japan more than 5 million matches-Koba, employing 99% of private entrepreneurs. The Foundation of the economy: they finish the rework, repackage products in large factories. Some matches-Koba can manually tap the pan, the parts for the Shinkansen and equipment for NASA.

Significantly, the role the games played Koba in the Japanese economy. They dissipate the traditional company towns along ordinary streets. Go for the coffee, and next in the basement of his grandfather busy. As a result, the city feels more whole, alive. And no one needs to drive half an hour to work in a huge industrial area — the pan can be tapped at least in the backyard.

In addition, microgeneration affect the culture of respect for manual labor and involvement in the process of creating things. Go on TV show about matches-Koba: “We have built an indestructible wall!”, “Haha, you haven’t seen the destroyer of walls, which we made!” Oh, this country’s hardworking children in the bodies of adults.

The aging Japanese society is faced with new problems which it previously did not know. Among those problems is senile delinquency. From sadness and loneliness in older people begin to fail cultural habits, which are not allowed them in youth to be rude to other people. Old people are often to go on offense. The government spends billions of yen on the establishment of a special prison for the elderly — in fact nursing homes.

Many older people become isolated and lead a life of pluginov, hikikomori. When, during the preparations for the annual day for the elderly, officials tracked down the 111-year-old Sogen Kato, turned out that the celebrant had to be mummified. According to his relatives, the past 30 years, Kato had lived alone and never had visitors. I remember watching some featurette about it. In her final all Japanese people simply stopped leaving their homes, and the food brought them robots.


Onomichi is a small port town between Hiroshima and Osaka. He stretched out along the shore for tens of kilometers, but each point seems small, from the coast to the hill on the other side can be reached within ten minutes. Along the town is the line of trains, which in Onomichi come few tourists and avid cyclists.

I don’t understand why, but Onomichi is a city of athletes-cyclists. They begin to make out their cases right on a small train station, where for their convenience even built a special shed. In Onomichi there is even a special velohotel in numbers which you can call from the street and Park inside.

Once a year there is a big festival in honor of which overlap part of the huge bridge that leads from the city towards big Islands, Shikoku. In normal times, it is impossible to pass even on foot.

In Onomichi, we settled in a typical hotel. Previous experience in the hotel was a little disastrous, with paper walls and a constant cold which I could not digest even cleverly integrated into the room air. I feared a repeat, especially when I saw that the hotel was a hostel on the second floor a dozen people diligently fenced off sliding walls. The floor is rolled in a roll of a futon, a traditional Japanese mattress.

But in fact, rest in the hotel were excellent. Wash had a small separate building, but after I inhaled plenty of sea-side air and have seen enough of stars to neck pain. From sleeping on a hard futon body is a little flushed, but in the morning came through the window dawn, with a second title in Japan. Even it was a pity that we stopped here for just one night.

Onomichi I remember a wonderful dinner at a tiny family-run fish restaurant on two tables. I almost forgot to be embarrassed about the amount of attention the chef pays to every guest, and almost decided to try sake — but at the last moment changed his mind. I’m so rarely in provincial cities-in-which-nothing-not, that is to take a walk at night Onomichi was a special pleasure, which is happy and which is unlikely to repeat again.

But even Onomichi is a city with one of the highest concentrations of cats. Cats are everywhere here, they even on an ordinary commemorative Japanese stamp on a tiny cable car that goes minute from the foot of the hill to its top. Getting from the station — and there is a monument to love cats.


Onomichi was a transit point to one of the main and most distant from Tokyo points of travel — the island Naoshima. A small island in a few villages was the Japanese Mecca for lovers of contemporary art: it built as many as three museums, not counting the significant number of art objects and installations.

To Naoshima have to go half a day, although the distance there is ridiculous even for Japan: it is necessary several times to change from train to train, on the ferry and after walk on semi-deserted island. Hungry in the way, I was tempted to saarimaki Bento box with fish and vegetables, but quickly realized his mistake and hasn’t repeated.

Place of power Naoshima Museum Benesse, who built the great Japanese architect Tadao Ando (later in Kyoto, we accidentally find a book about his work). The Museum organized a Japanese entrepreneur Soichiro Fukutake. Shocked by the death of his father, he returned to his native island and rethink their participation in his life. To help endangered Naoshima, the businessman decided to organize the art-cluster to come “new people” helped the islanders to feel needed. Inspired, he even renamed his company “Benesse”, which in Latin means “good existence”.

Unfortunately, the Museum cannot be photographed, but I hasten to testify is one of the greatest museums of modern art where I was. Space concrete architecture, Ando creates a special space where you feel not the visitor to the headquarters of the Tyrell Corporation from “blade Runner”, not the hero of “the Fifth element”. And what about the feeling from the paintings of Claude Monet, immersed in this atmosphere!

Like most other Islands, Naoshima similar to a cone, where all the fun clings above to the top. Therefore, any Museum sites offer magnificent views of the Bay and the sunset. Interestingly, except for the museums “Benesse” operates on the island a special art-hotel where you can settle in the middle of the artwork.

However, we lived in a tiny hostel, where besides us there was nobody — including the Manager. And only at night in the next room came a slim chick that ran around the island, despite its mountains. I had another hard night on the futon, considering in the window the flashing lights on the airplane wings that went on long TRANS-Asian route from Tokyo exactly me.

In addition to museums and art objects in Naoshima there is nothing: only a couple of villages, a Marina and some factory “Mitsubishi” beyond the hills, in which no access: no physical or even topographic. At eight in the evening the island is dying: aliens crawl around our hotels and at night they Shine lights, a tiny window automatic Laundry Yes konbini small, “family-Mart”, which is the traditional kruglosutochno closes at ten.

In Naoshima really worth it to spend a few days: to sleep in the art hotel, escape to a neighboring island where “Benesse” built not less wonderful museums, ride a bike, to go on foot to the hills, to visit the old Shinto temples, rebuilt in a modern way. But we escaped from the island the following morning, giving a vow to someday return.


Osaka is a large city, Tokyo is completely different. Initially I assumed Osaka would be that Petersburg, a developed province with its cultural code. For in fact it is more like some kind of growth (in which I, in truth, never was).

In contrast to the clean and overly organized Tokyo, Osaka seemed too coarse, so the Japanese in Hong Kong. Perhaps, therefore, in Osaka a lot of Chinese tourists — they wear a uniform all on area boutiques. I succumbed to the universal temptation and bought wireless headphones in the “Apple store”. At the same time I first visited him, the present.

In Osaka, everything is mixed up and the result was bland: can’t even remember, which was remarkable. I visited the famous shop used film cameras that were quite lousy in fact. A. ran away to the aquarium, which refused to say anything. We spent two days looking for okonomiyaki, not knowing that this word means something like “food” — there is each time applied different and all the more strange dishes.


From Osaka went to Naru. Nara, Osaka and Kyoto form an equilateral triangle between them is about 80 kilometers in a straight line. It’s amazing how Nara and Kyoto has managed to remain simple, honest and neat in the background of rollicking, too Asian neighbor.

Nara is a popular tourist destination among the Japanese themselves. In the vicinity of the Bench joined the Japanese tribes, which then increased the state. Still it is believed that Nara kept some the same Japanese spirit that is so important to adopt and maintain. I searched, but didn’t notice anything.

In Nara, we arrived at the chaise Shinkansen already by midnight. At the door of a closed hostel we were greeted by the sign: “Dear Sergey and Anna. We’re closed. But you, please enter the code 1234 on the back door and come in.” Inside was something of a cross between a Ryokan and a space ship. I only wish the hotel all night walking back and forth.

To do in Nara absolutely nothing. Close proximity to Park with deer, which can be fed with special biscuits, and iron. Deer unusual stick that thumb out of the corner of his shirt and demand a cookie. Chinese tourists noisy waving their hands. The Japanese spirit is present. The train to Kyoto beckons — it is impossible to resist.


Kyoto is one of my favorite Japanese cities. Notice that I’m always looking for your abstract Petersburg — place, which is in spirit opposite to some center, something scattered-cultural, peaceful, still. Now, Kyoto is the real local St. Petersburg.

I already know all your favorite cafes and crannies, remember their location topographic flair — Kyoto mental map tightly imprinted in consciousness. In every favorite place I want to scream, “What, don’t you remember me? Yes a year ago I was sitting here!” Well I sat and sat, never know there gaydzinov visited since.

One of the most enjoyable gastronomic adventure is a lunch and dinner in small family run restaurants, izakaya. The food there is defiantly easy and inexpensive, and the owners are trying to give the guests all the time. It is supposed to dance with them the dance of politeness and the location: “I’m Happy to cut you the best slice your tuna”. — “Oh, thank you very much, we love spending your time!”

Kyoto traditionally go to a Japanese bath Sento. Though it is believed that the hot baths in Tokyo, at 46-47 degrees, in Kyoto, is also good.

The Japanese bath is the equivalent of the pub for the British: a place where rich and poor intermingle, lose the elitism and can just chat with each other, to share the news. There is even a special mobile app to search for nearby Sento. Military photos captured by the Japanese in the Marshall Islands filmed homemade Sento, which officers have built for themselves in the dense jungle. No wonder there is even another polizeistationen the word “skinship” from the English skinship — “brotherhood in bare skin”.

Each time I reproach myself for being here so long.

Almost accidentally visited Hiroshima — I didn’t want a day to sit in Osaka in the rain. From Osaka to Hiroshima was only a couple of hours on the high-speed Shinkansen. The clouds cleared and the sun had already reached halfway.

Hiroshima produces a feeling of ambivalence. On the one hand, it’s amazing to visit the place is scary and famous military disaster. I was standing at the famous T-way bridge, in which dozens of years ago, the American Navigator was aiming a nuclear bomb. It seems that in Russia on such a place would be built a huge Park with monuments and the city would become the capital of national mourning. And the Japanese are all different: small Stela, a couple of museums. Think atomic bomb — the beat goes on!

On the other hand, except the last of the tragedy in Hiroshima and nothing really left. This is a normal, boring Japanese town: house, bus, American and Chinese tourists. Is that a culinary festival and great Hiroshima oysters slightly brightened impression.

Near the cafe talked with the owner of Shiba inu. Asked whether it was true that this wonderful dog great with other animals and children? “Yes, Yes!” — assures me mistress. A little after, in Tokyo, friends dissuaded: “are You crazy? The shelters are jammed with Seebach, who scored after the success of “Hachiko”, but could not really tame”.

Wanted to joke that I wanted to call my Sibu beautiful Japanese word, such as “Bite”. Immediately it became clear that bite in Japanese means “smelly”.

And Tokyo

Love these houses-the slopes — their tops as if cut with a knife at a sharp angle. A clever combination of the width of the road, which is adjacent to the house, forced to reduce his altitude in this way. Other regulations limit the height of houses which overlooks the motorway, and buildings have to be build in the shape of a boot — as usual-high shaft and a small sock that looks outside.

Tokyo is a city where the average age of the houses is two times less than the average age of its inhabitants. New buildings are constructed a little, about 14% (compare with 65% in France and 80% in the UK). The Japanese life is slowly crawling on the housing ladder, moving from small apartments to larger apartments. But if there are no resources, I live life as. Why is only one video blog about the organization a tiny Japanese apartments.

It’s funny that in the cultural areas of the city appear apartment buildings, targeted at single women. They carefully advertise the image of strength, independence: theatres in the evenings, yoga in the morning, cocktails with the cool guys. Carrie Bradshaw, but in the Japanese manner.

Unlike European countries, Japan has never been experiments with municipal housing. The Tokyo have always lived in her, even if it is very small.

The Tokyo often seem to be a nation of sons who are tired of living under the influence of strong and hard-working fathers, confused and desperate. Some work in konbini hoping to get Rosa (loss) — products, the validity of which goes. Disappointed in the other sexual, cultural and social life and turn into soshoku-danshi, herbivores: live with their mothers, sitting to write, and often wearing lingerie.

Ordinary people tend to think of strange dressed people: freaks, punks, girls dressed as Schoolgirls, which flooded some streets of the city. And all that really exists. Development of street fashion in Tokyo is bound to two people: Wajiro Stake and Shoichi is Aoko.

Con spent his youth in the interwar period in the Ginza district, where he observed the craze of young people, European clothes and European clothes style. Japanese dandy called themselves moga (modern girl) and mobo (modern boys). 80 years later after that, in 1996, Shoichi is Aoko started taking pictures of unusually dressed young people in the area Haruki. After the Second world war Haruki was the local residence of the us military, and after their departure from the area remains a center of freedom, independence and expression. In the eighties became a place of regular fees a “lost generation” that emerged after the industrial and demographic boom of the sixties. The aoko took pictures of local freaks and published pictures published in the magazine “fruit”. The magazine became so popular among teenagers that they began to specifically hang out in their favorite places the district in the hope of meeting the Aoko and get to the log. Simultaneously, the appearance of the magazine on the freak-fashion began to legalize a Japanese style of expression, and this legalization has given the creative power of many designers like Yoshi Yamamoto or Rei Kawakubo.

Japanese and Tokyo over the years become a bit older and richer and all the more lonely. Ten years in the country there will be 3.5 million fewer families and the number of single people will increase to 18.5 million people. Of them age 13 million individuals will be over 45 years. Only in Tokyo will be 2 million singles and the elderly. Elderly and lonely.

Travel I everywhere a foreigner, but only in Japan feel so strange and alien. In poor Asian countries, white people are involuntarily feel their superiority (even though we are ashamed), in the West they are not particularly stand out and be one big, bad speaking in English a lot. In Japan, the foreigner is alienated, but feels equality and even superiority of the environment in which it is located, feels respected. Similarly, I felt only in an Orthodox monastery.

If you look different, speak and think differently, you can finally relax and feel different — that is, himself.

I finish these lines a month after the return. Film shown, things are disassembled for a long time, even almost spent a small supply of seafood and plum wine that managed to smuggle with him. But the sense of Japan still remained. I still remember the smells and sounds, a vague feeling of the Tokyo metro, still bowing in places and occasionally whisper to myself, “Arigato kudasai-Masta” — thanks for that.

Have fun, see you soon.

Show More

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button