Friday, 31 March 2017

BearingAway Live: The Beginning

A video of our journey from London to Japan. 

First steps in Japan

One's first day in a new city or country is always rather tricky.  First there is the physical grime of travel to wash away, the tiredness to banish and one's packing - once so familiar, now seemingly incredibly alien - to explore, but then there is the small matter of a different language and culture to get used to.  In some ways Japan feels to be in a league of its own in this regard, and so far we have barely dipped our little toes in.

Yesterday was all about getting here - the eleven. Hour flight to Seoul and the hour long connection to Fukuoka, the latter spent predominantly completing the lengthy immigration and customs declarations to enter Japan.  The journey itself wasn't bad as long-haul flying goes.  Asiana hadn't been the easiest of airlines to deal with electronically, but once on board the seats were relatively comfortable, the crew unfailingly friendly, and the food remarkably good for aviation fare. Wehad expected formalities on arrival to take a while, but save for a little disagreement over how best to represent the seven hotels we will be staying at in a single box on the form, we were allowed in without too much trouble.  Goodness knows if they will be able to make sense of Mark's cribblings, or indeed whether they would have been just as happy with something a little less comprehensive, so long as pen had been commited to paper in roughly the right places.

And now it is morning on our first day. The free hotel rahmen last night had been a nice welcome, saving us from exploring the city in our rather fatigued state, and the cans of lager from the very Japanese vending machine were truly welcome.  The main objectives for the hours ahead are simply (I use the term cautiously) to become acquainted with Japan, to pick up our oh-so-precious JR rail passes, to book seats on around ten different trains, and to find lunch in what is regarded by some as the culinary capital of Kyushu.  I can't wait to get going.

Monday, 13 March 2017

Different this time

Goodness me, it's that time again - that point in the year when I promise myself, not to mention my faithful and very patient readers, that this time will be different.  I really do mean it each time I write a post such as this, even if deep down I have a sneaky suspicion that this holiday will be just like all the others, and that once I'm off the first train or plane I'll forget all about writing, or simply find something more enjoyable to do, like eating or drinking, or generally anything other than sitting in front of a computer keyboard.

Part of the problem in the past however, has been over-ambition.  That, and a healthy dose of perfectionism, combining to mean that I spend so long takig photographs, video and audio that I have scant time left to pen carefully worded prose - and frankly I'd rather write nothing than utter rubbish (though will let you be the judge of how well I succeed in this).

Now I know about bad workmen and all that, but the other problem in recent times has been a frankly awful bluetooth keyboard, which somehow managed simultaneously to omit characters that I had typed whilst adding in plenty that I hadn't.  It meant that a post of roughly this length might have taken me several hours, all the while picking about in each sentence to correct the nonsense that I had inadvertently drafted.  The good news is that my new Griffin Lightening keyboard is making very snappy work of this post.  The downside is that any nonsense present on the page is well and truly down to me!

So, I've spent too much of your precious time telling you what's going to be different this time, and not nearly enough saying where I will be going, and what I'll be doing when there.

Well, suffice to say that this is a big one.  Last year I travelled no further east than the Franco-German border, and as far west only as Madrid.  This year the journey will be of a similar length to the first leg of that trip to Spain, albeit with the twelve or so hours spent in planes rather than trains.  I'm heading somewhere that's been on my bucket list for years but somehow never reached the top, a place whose culture is both all around us and yet in many ways quite foreign.  It is said to be one of the only truly modern non-Western countries and its impact is felt globally.  This year I'm heading to Japan.