I must be crazy to take such a trip right in the middle of Japanese summer. The streets are empty in Tokyo and they’re talking about Gifu reaching the 1997 highs of 40 or so degrees Celsius. But it’s not the first time I’ve set out on a solitary trip in such stifling weather. I managed it walking around Shodoshima during a pilgrimage for a week, so I’m sure I can do it in the air-conditioned comfort of local JR trains.
After wrapping up a few projects and sending off a couple of emails, I packed my lone rucksack and set out late afternoon. Just a few kilograms of clothes, camera lenses, a tripod and wash kit. If there’s one thing I’ve learned over the years it’s to be sure to pack light. Unnecessary weight can be the difference between a pleasant ramble and a deathly slog.
The first stop on the map was Kyoto. The sun was already on its descent in the sky and I had plans to meet my Japanese house mate who lived with me back in the U.K at University. There wouldn’t be any sightseeing today, but at least I could get myself partway towards my main destination of Shikoku. It’s the only of the 4 Japanese islands that I’ve yet to visit,so I figured it would make a good place to explore this time around.
In case anyone is wondering, the 18 Kippu, or more formally, the Seishun 18 Kippu (青春１８切符) is a ticket available to people of all ages 3 times a year – summer, winter and spring – to allow travel at ultra cheap costs. It gives you 5 full ‘days’ of JR train use – pretty much any train except the bullet trains (Shinkansen) or paid express trains. Or, you can choose to split the 5 days between people. So two people could use the same ticket to travel for 2 days each and have the final day leftover. Pretty handy, and it only costs 11,500 yen (roughly around 50.00 pounds).
Since I was only travelling from Nagoya to Kyoto today and because my total trip is going to be more than 5 days, I decided to pay the local train fares to my destination. Only around 2,500 yen and 2 hours on the fastest local trains. I was there in time for dinner and meeting my friend for the first time in a year. Ryosuke is the ultra cool guy from the Kansai-ben videos I made a while back in a pub in the U.K. A through and through happening kansai dude on his way to becoming an English teach a some lucky high school!
We waxed nostalgic for a few hours at a Kyoto izakaya, reminiscing about life at University and the good ‘old days’. Ryosuke tells me that whenever he thinks back to our time in the U.K, he thinks of the Superbus song ‘Radio Song’, presumably because I spent many a summer evening jamming it out on Guitar Hero ^^;. It’s a rocking goof song indeed. We also chatted about life and becoming older, having to work and thinking about the future.
In his 4 years of maturity over me, he reckons that he has mellowed out a lot more. Less likely to put up a wall and express his individualism and more likely just to chill with the crowd and make friends. It was interesting for me to consider. Right now I really do feel incredibly energetic and eager to get out and show the world ‘me’, in a grand sense. Perhaps this is something that cools down with age? Ryosuke reckons it’s good to have this passion and express it at a younger age though, as he feels it’s more difficult to do as one gets older. Interesting, interesting.
So that’s about all for today. I’m intending to blog about this trip as I go – daily if possible – so check back frequently for more updates! Tomorrow I’m off to Naoshima, the island of art in the Seto Inland Sea towards Shikoku. Should be cool!
To round off today, here’s some frogs singing the children’s song ‘Kaeru no Uta’ (蛙の歌), photographed in Kyoto station ^^.