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12 reasons to send Emily to Japan!

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EDIT: This piece was written as a competition entry to win a trip to Japan. I did not win (boo!) but I enjoyed writing the piece!

Dear kind/intelligent/funny/dashingly handsome* blogging competition judges,

*Select preferred adjective(s)

Please send me to Japan …

1) To learn more about Manga
As a wedding gift for my husband, I commissioned Elena Vitagliano, winner of the Manga Jiman Competition 2011, to create a unique Manga-style comic to tell the story of the night Adrian proposed to me. The process of course involved a lot of discussion about the Manga style of art, so I’d relish the opportunity to learn more about it – and to show the comic to people we meet in Japan to see what they make of it!

2) To help my husband forgive me for saying “no” to Japan as a honeymoon destination
Given my choice of wedding gift, and my husband’s keen enthusiasm for a Japanese honeymoon, you can imagine how difficult it was to decide against it. The ONLY reason it wasn’t possible was money: even with a honeymoon gift list we couldn’t afford the cost of flights, accommodation, transport and activities (sob). It would be beyond amazing if we were given the opportunity to go together now, in the first year of our marriage, to see Japan together and blog about it every day.

3) To show my Dad that it doesn’t take 15 years to string a sentence together in Japanese
My Dad is a seriously clever guy. As in, a degree from Cambridge, a perfect IQ score, and an annoying habit of being right about everything. Yet in 15 years of working for a Japanese company, visiting Japan, taking Japanese lessons, talking to Japanese people, and attending business meetings conducted entirely in Japanese, he still can’t say much more than “hello, nice to meet you” in the language. Can it really be that difficult? I think not, and I’m confident two and a half weeks will be enough time to pick up some conversational basics.*I will of course be careful to learn the correct array of honourific suffixes to avoid any faux pas when conversing with my new Japanese friends.

*Possibly with the aid of some surreptitious pre-trip study …

4) To give me some work away from work
I run a blogging company (Write My Site). I blog every day, but always for other people. I’m hugely excited by the prospect of blogging about interesting stuff that I’m actually seeing and doing for myself. Not that I don’t enjoy writing blogs for accountants, mind you.

5) To demonstrate that there’s more to karaoke than Lady Gaga
According to ‘Joysound Official Information Website’ (a reputable source if ever I saw one), 5 of the Top 20 Western karaoke songs in Japan are by Lady Gaga. Now I’m all for a bit of “P-P-P-Pokerface”, but I truly believe it would be a disservice not to bring my own brand of rap-style karaoke to my unsuspecting Japanese friends. Let’s just say they’ll never listen to Run DMC in quite the same way again.


“It’s tricky to rock a rhyme, to rock a rhyme that’s right on time, it’s tricky, t-t-t-tricky!”

6) To eat something that isn’t a deep-fried pork cutlet
At the risk of jeopardising my chances as the winner of this competition, I’ve never been massively sold on Japanese cuisine. I have a fairly substantial aversion to raw fish, I’m ambivalent at best about cooked fish, and it takes me quite a while to adjust to new textures and flavours. The result, so far, is that my exposure to Japanese food has been mostly limited to deep-fried pork cutlets and the occasional beef bowl – but it’s time for this to change.

Several years of extensive travelling have helped me to become more adventurous in my food choices: in particular a recent visit to South Korea, which posed significant gastronomic challenges (raw squid, anyone?). I’ve been trying hard to cultivate my palette as I firmly believe there are few travel crimes more heinous than refusing to eat the local food – just bring me somebody who says they eat exclusively in McDonalds when they visit other countries and see how I react. Choose me as your blogger and I PROMISE I’ll eat everything that’s put in front of me! As long as the fugu chefs are properly trained, that is …

7) To go to the theatre
Having previously run a theatre company that staged shows around the world (*dusts off trumpet*), I’m fascinated by theatre in other countries – it gives you a perspective on a culture that isn’t available anywhere else, in my opinion. I’m intrigued both by the traditional and modern forms of Japanese theatre – I’ll even take the hard core option of several hours of Noh* if it’s available.

*A form of theatre once described by a friend as “intolerable even to the Japanese”.

8) To conquer my claustrophobia in a capsule
I.Don’t.Like.Confined.Spaces. However, travel is about facing challenges, and what better way to overcome this particular anxiety than entering a capsule hotel?

Photos of Capsule Hotel Asakusa Riverside, Taito
This photo of Capsule Hotel Asakusa Riverside is courtesy of TripAdvisor

9) To give me the chance to write scathing reviews of tour guides who look at me and see a giant dollar (or, in this case, yen) sign
There are few people in life more amusing than the local tour guide trying to rip off the gullible tourist. The best example I have of this is from my trip to China last year when I took a “tour” of the Great Wall. Allow me to share with you an excerpt from the piece I wrote about the experience:

Great Wall, Poor Tour

Before I start complaining about the crapness of my tour I would like to make the point that a day spent at the Great Wall of China is a day you will never forget, or regret. It’s absolutely incredible, and worth just about any amount of grief to get there. However, whinging about tourist rip-offs is always fun, so here goes:

Essentially, the tour description and itinerary bore no resemblance to the actual experience. I paid £30 for a ‘Great Wall hike from Jinshanling’ to include entry fee, lunch and private bus. The allotted time was 6.30am (ouch!) to 6.30pm, with 6 hours’ travel time built in – so I figured we’d start the hike at 9.30am, stop for lunch on the way, and be picked up by the bus around 3.30pm. I wish. In fact, the travel time was closer to 8 hours, with plenty of faff on both sides.

We had less than two hours on the wall, which in no way represents a hike as you simply potter along one stretch of it, then turn round and go back – and you’ve got to allow well over an hour to get the cable car up and down the mountain, due to the enormous queues. “Lunch” was in a canteen next to the car park, and consisted of some cold noodles and egg. The “guide” simply pointed the way to the cable car (the £5 cost of which was not included in the “tour”) and advised us not to get lost because “foreigner’s face all look same to Chinese.”

Summary: If you want to see the wall at Jinshanling (and I recommend that you do), take a public bus for less than £1, stay overnight in a hostel, and take your time hiking along this magnificent stretch of the Great Wall.

Full blog piece here.

I look forward to locating similar tour operators in Japan.

10) To see weird stuff like this
This could only happen in Japan, and it’s my goal to get a photo of something even more insane.

11) To encounter another group of excitable Japanese teenagers
When I was a cash-strapped student I had a Saturday job as a tour guide of Cambridge for an exchange programme involving a school in Japan. My most memorable experience was the day spent with a group of teenage girls who were so excited by the sighting of Pizza Hut that they ran right out into the road to get to it, oblivious to the dangers of city traffic in full flow.

I took them to a party that night, where they mobbed my friend who bore an unfortunate resemblance to Daniel Radcliffe. If you ever want to terrify a teenage boy, set a pack of 15-year-old Japanese girls on him who are screaming “Harry Potter! Harry! I love you Harry!” at the top of their voices.

12) To see if all businessmen drink “very much sake”
My aforementioned Dad spends quite a bit of time on business trips with his Japanese colleagues. When he’s with them I’m always amazed at his transformation from a straight-laced, responsible guy, into a sake-swilling party animal. He was on one of these trips on his most recent birthday and it was a drunken mess of a man who answered the phone when I called to wish him a happy birthday. I was informed by his colleague (who grabbed the phone as Dad was half-way through his slurred insistence that he was not in the least bit drunk) that he had consumed “very much sake”. The following morning, Dad actually missed the business meeting he’d flown over to attend as a completely co-incidental “stomach bug” hit him with a vengeance at 6am, causing him to undergo projectile vomiting and miss his connecting flight. Does Japan have this astonishing effect on all otherwise sensible men? Send me there and I’ll let you know!

Well, competition judges, that brings us to the end of this enthralling/enchanting/unforgettable* list of 12 reasons why I should be your travel blogger in Japan. I hope I’ve persuaded you that I should be your winner, but if not I can offer a bribe in the form of a lifetime supply of chocolate (I have a mate who works at Mars).

*Again, please select the adjective(s) of your choice

Thanks for reading!

Written by Emily

August 27, 2012 at 9:10 pm

Posted in Japan

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