Journey to the Far Mall
Beyond and Nowhere Near
the Basho Experience
I was almost surprised to learn how exhausting it was to carry a suitcase, a laptop, a purse, a coat and two carry-on bags on the journey to and throughout, Japan.
I dare say, it was on about day three, (after yet another shopping excursion in Kamakura) when it suddenly dawned on me; I’d have to quit shopping or learn (asap) how to pack efficiently. Unknown to me at that time, neither of these ideas would come to fruition.
Cool rain -
of new friends and soba
From the beginning of the trip, there were turnstiles, escalators, airport limousines, planes, trains and automobiles. Once you feel you have mastered the art of stair climbing and descending, it is nearly “a piece of cake”. You will soon begin to feel energized, refreshed and experience an invigorating sense of accomplishment. (Note: not to be confused with haiku.)
One thing, you may want to keep in mind, is the fact each airport, building and hotel floor plans are slightly different and you must learn to remain flexible and open for the challenge.
not knowing when
to enter my pin
Since this was my first visit to Japan, I wanted to make a fairly decent impression but being "almost a diplomat" is mind-boggling and can make life abroad, a little strenuous.
Autumn breeze -
my skirt caught up
in the turnstile
In the train station, in Kamakura, I experienced a classic, haiku moment when I suddenly realized I had developed a near Olympian endurance for travel. I was almost certain; I was being spiritually prepared for “better and greater things”.
Arriving at the hotel, in Kamakura, (quite an adventure of mental agility and strength) my only thought was to drag my belongings into the room, and claim my new found freedom.
In the hotel, after the initial shock of being sandwiched between the elevator doors, one leg extended - foot hooked around the strap of my bag, dragging it behind me, I experienced yet another haiku moment.
I became aware I had accidentally discovered a traveling secret. If ever in Japan, and you find yourself in the position of holding several bags (and no one is there to help) place one bag on each side of the elevator to prop the doors open. You are able to load your bags and equipment in the elevator, then simply remove the propping bags and you are, “good to go”! Isn't that a "revelation"?
The downside (for women travelers) is, before you manage to get everything in the elevator; the most attractive man in the hotel will suddenly appear from nowhere, look at you, slightly shake his head and smile.
the fragrance of
a stranger's smile
Once settled in my Japanese style room, I began to explore the facilities. I learned straight away, the difference between bath and house slippers, because I am (let’s face it) practically a genius.
my kimono sash
the wrong way
I was also able (almost instantly) to determine I was to use the small stool in the bath for initial washing before bathing in the generously deep tub.
tracing a smiley face
on the mirror
The room was quite unique and typically Japanese with tatami mats and pillows surrounding the low table which was set with complimentary tea and almond cookies. It was sincerely, just perfect.
the sudden flight
of two ravens
After several days in Japan, I began to adapt to my surroundings, learning various ways to make traveling easier. I did observe a sign in Akita, which led me to think my newly acquired skills might be put to better use on the golf course.
In my "Walter Mitty" state of mind, I wondered momentarily, how much caddies might earn, in the course of a lifetime…
I admit many things in Japanese culture were a bit confusing and sometimes unusual, to me - for example; I had never seen beer sold in vending machines, packaged nuts referred to as “relish”, nor seen digital toilets with touch control bidets or heated toilet seats in commercial sections of remote tourist areas.
Bento box -
the lemon scent
of a courtesy towel
Another thing I found overwhelmingly realistic, was a Coca cola machine at the top of Mount Gassan, one of the three holy mountains of Dewa, which separates inland Yamagata from the coastal Shonai region.
a bubble of laughter
I am grateful for the opportunity to travel to Japan and the ability to enjoy this remarkable clash of cultures, which is most evident (in my mind) to Tokyo and Kyoto. I also enjoyed the idea that coffee and tea vending machines were available nearly everywhere we traveled, even in a small country village in the north.
I believe I learned a valuable life lesson in Japan; nuts are relish and there is a very good possibility, “nuts” are relished in Japan.
Deborah Russell, © 2002
(Diary of a Haiku Diva)