Sunday, February 10, 2008

Dreams of Japan Part I: train station ballrooms, sword dances and a female shrine

Well, it seems that someone is going to Japan and I hope it is me. We bought the tickets over the weekend as well as the Rail Passes we will use on the bullet trains to travel from place to place. We had thought about going out of Vancouver but my body simply couldn’t handle the trip to the airport from Victoria AND the plane trip (going from plane to hospital is the plan for coming BACK, not going over). So we are going to Seattle, spending a night in rest and then doing the three hours at the airport and the 10 hour flight. I will take a special medication which I hope will cause me to sleep. Then in Tokyo, I will rest again, perhaps up to a day and a half before we start heading out places.

We booked through IACE, which is a Japanese exchange travel agency, they only employ people from Japan. They were not only very helpful but saved us hundreds as there was a seat sale on tickets Seattle to Tokyo for $380 per seat (plus tax and fuel surcharge which brings it to $700). We will be there in April, when most local tourism is done but not a lot of international tourists. It is also when the famous cherry blossoms are out and we hope to see some of the famous sites of hundreds of years old 250 cherry trees…in between buying loads of stuff and getting goth and lolita clothes. It turns out since December the dollar has dropped 10% against the Yen and is likely to stay there for some time, so this trip will be a bit more expensive than we planned (this really is starting to sound like a trip – isn’t that the first rule, it always is more expensive than you planned).

We have been reading up on books for a couple months now, and with the advice of the IACE rep, got the Green train pass, which is first class. This is because there is more room overall, which means it might be easier to use washroom and I might be able to transfer out of the wheelchair, and fold the chair up. It was $100 more for a two week pass for first class, but seat reservations are free.

One of our days we are going to see the oldest Japanese Rail train station in Eastern Japan (1915) which it happens was designed by the California architect I know so well, Frank Lloyd Wright (talk about going round the world to see a bit of home). The Nikko station has a guest room which is popular in April and May when Japanese people take their holidays because Emperor of Taisho period used it. I am far more interested in the elaborate dance hall on the second floor. Not a LOT of small train stations have paneled and chandelier decorated dance halls. Actually, the “why” of the dance hall is driving me crazy. Did the Emperor arrive and want to practice his waltz between trains or did Frank Lloyd Wright decide to design a train station with the amenities of the 1915 Ocean Liners? Other than the Dance Hall, the station, oddly enough, looks to be wheelchair accessible.

The Shrines and Temples of Nikko made it designated to be a world heritage site in 1999. For photo obsessed (like us) there are hotels over 100 years old, the Shinkyo Bridge which was originally built in 1636 for the exclusive use of the Shogun and his messengers (rebuilt in 1907) which also looks wheelchair accessible. Shines tend to NOT be accessible since they tend to be atop hills on which you are supposed to climb many stairs and contemplate things....probably like, “How far is it to the top?” The temples have 1200 years of history and I am sure Linda will go photo crazy (Nikko is in the northern and eastern part of Japan). I on the other hand want to see the Mausoleum from 1634 (hee hee – dead people!). And what I REALLY wanted to see was the Takinoo Shrine. A lot of the shrines originally forbid women to come as they made the area “unclean,”(Insert mentally the two pages of comments I am refraining from ranting on the thought of woman making things ‘unclean’). Even now, one shrine we are planning to go see (another World Heritage Site) doesn’t allow women in menstruation or pregnant to attend. I planned on visiting the Takinoo Shine, which is a small rustic shine surrounded by three giant cedars, moved there in 1645 and dedicated to a female deity. It is known as the “female shrine” and women go there (mostly for love issues). But still, I like the idea of this female shrine which was listed as a "30 minute uphill walk through the woods via a stone path.” It sounded like a bit of hard work wheeling but I REALLY wanted to go see the “Female Shrine.” Well from the Nikko Tourist Board we see a pictures showing the “approach to the Shine” Does that look like a “uphill walk through the woods” or instead “MORE damn stairs which means no wheelchairs”? Already I am facing what I WANT to do against what I CAN do.

However at one of the MAIN shrines, the Fatarasan shrine, there is, during a festival, the MAIDEN SWORD dance. Ho ho! Not only would I get to see the favorites of both Anime and Manga: Shrine Maidens! But they will be doing stuff with swords, pretty cool. But, it turns out they only do it during the first day of the Yayoi Festival (started in 767 AD). But wait…the Yayoi festival is in April (When we are going) and the dance occurs on the 13th; when we will be there. Hmmmmm……there are sacred Fan dances and other dances that day but what does this previous sword maiden want to see: the Sword Dance (are women who come in wheelchairs and bring their own epee swords allowed to join in?). So you can see we are planning on doing more than buying used panties from vending machines and going to geek fests in Tokyo (through the Tokyo Anime and Manga fair DOES end the day after we arrive! I am just not sure if my first impression of Japan should be pushed up against 10,000-30,000 male Otaku: Otaku are like trekkies if Star Trek steadily printed porn books, anime, porn anime and porn anime games for tens of thousands of guys who prefer to love (as literally as possible) a two dimensional anatomically unrealistic female, or figurine, than get to know, or even talk to a real live female - who are, let's face it, by being human, both scary and unpredicable).

Well, that’s is pretty much it for today. I am having a really, really pain intense day and had one of those, “If you can’t say anything nice, what the hell do you say?” moments. This is the problem with conditions having chronic, “OMG! Why do I have so many nerve endings?” pain; how exactly do you focus on anything? So for me, I know Japan will not be the answer to everything, in fact most days might be disasters (but disasters in a foreign land!), but the Japan dream has got me through the last seven months. I know that buying the airline and rail tickets are just the start (well, we bought some yen a while ago from the manga I sold in December). There are hotel reservations and oxygen tanks and all sorts of little details to figure out when someone with autonomic, heart, respiratory, heat intolerance, and other significant health problems decides to take a trip to Japan. I know we are counting on the Bullet Trains to put us in an hour or two in at our next destination, so that just looking out the windows, I will be building memories.

For me, today and the last few days in particular, I am weary. More than tired and fatigued, I am a vessel who has been poured out and all that seems left is pain and weariness. Except, I have one dream left, so I will think about stone foxes and Shrine Maidens with swords and ballrooms in train stations. And maybe, another day, when I have so little left, I will share some more of my dreams of Japan, which I know will end up being nothing like what will actually occur but sometimes, what occurs is even better. Not much else right now that can even hint at that. So, may your dreams or fantasies get you through this Sunday/Monday and the bleak mid-winter (which sometimes blows stronger in the brain and the bones than against the windows).


cheryl g. said...

Mmmmmmm, sword maidens... that is a good thing to focus on. I just finished reading Iona-Sama Fanatics 1 and am bummed that I now have to wait for volume 2.

I choose to believe that you WILL go to Japan and it will be wonderful.

For now, rest sis and may some respite come your way...

Olivia said...

It's exciting to read about your Japan plans. Kudos to you and Linda for getting this trip happening.

PS Hope you get the residency, I voted for you

elizabeth said...

I am so excited for you guys!! This is going to be a really amazing adventure.

Katrin said...

Sounds like an awesome trip!

wiccachicky said...

OMG! I am so jealous!! You will have a great time. Yes, you are right though -- there are problems with temples and access for wheelchairs, but not all of them have stairs and such. I think I remember the large temple in Nara that houses the big Buddha was void of lots of stairs. Plus, they have a great lawn with lots of deer that will eat from your hand. It might be worth a day trip on the train. Let me know if you have any other ideas -- I can try to give you some suggestions.

Neil said...

Good morning (I hope!!) Beth at al:

All this talk about near-constant pain remind me of two things:

1. If it’s serious enough that you want immediate attention, go to the Emergency ward in an ambulance. They will take you seriously then. Broken legs are not something I would load into a private auto to transport, but I tend to look at liability as well as the injury.

2. If I were God, I would want to eliminate the sort of pain and disease(s) you have, Beth. But I’d be vindictive enough to eliminate them only for people who are worth having in society. The axe murderers and child molesters are the ones who deserve that sort of health issue. So why do you have it? God knows, but only if (g)(G)od(s) exist(s). Which is what reminded me of “Calculating God” by Robert J. Sawyer. A scientist who doesn’t believe God is involved in science meets a scientist who cannot conceive of science occurring without God.

It’s fiction, but the premise makes sense: water is the only(?) chemical that expands at the point of freezing: that makes life possible. If ice sank, Earth would be too cold for mammals like us. Gravity is just the right force for us to be as we are (yes, life could exist if gravity were higher or lower, but we wouldn’t be who or what we are now. There are two other forces that we know of that have to lie within narrow parameters, or humans couldn’t exist. Sooo, all four physical forces exist, thus humans exist. In the book, this is proof that God experimented and designed our universe until we could be here.

That’s the book’s premise, folks; I’m not here to argue theology, please! My beliefs are that God may have designed the universe, but did it over more than a week (maybe we got our units of time mixed up; a day should be what we call a millennium?); and that my beliefs and religion are my own damn business - I won’t insult your faith if you don’t insult mine.

Elizabeth, you will enjo Japan if you let things happen as they should. If you get depressed over a "short uphill walk" you will miss the reason you aren't supposed to go up there. Japan will be wonderful, and you and Linda will have a grand time.

I hope today is a good day for you, and tomorrow is better.


Neil said...

Hi again, wonderful:

I just realized what was bothering me about you joining the sword dance.

Travellers' Rules #1: Airlines and security staff have no sense of humour, It is good to remember this.

Travellers' Rules #2: An epee is NOT carry-on luggage. Not even for sword-maidens who use mobility devices.

Travellers' Rules #3: An epee is NOT a mobility device.

Carry on with your day, Xen - er, Beth.

KateJ said...

Well, I do very much hope that you and Linda get to Japan and to some of those shrines, ceremonies etc. It does look like there're a lot of stairs. Long flights of them. I'm sure you and Linda have got everything organised for the wheelchair! I look forward to seeing some truly amazing photos, whatever you get to do there.

Talking of things Japanese-y I'm posting a picture you might like to see... it'll be on my own blog sometime today. Interested in your opinion.

Dawn Allenbach said...

I loved that last paragraph. It was so f---ing poetic!

Because, sometimes, our dreams really are what get us through.

Lisa Harney said...

Sounds like you have some fun spots planned. I hope access issues don't limit your chances for more fun.

Cooper said...

Sounds kewl. I'm not a big traveling fan so I am somewhat in awe of your gumption (not that I didn't know you had it to begin with) of planning this whole thing out. Start stocking up on camera batteries now.
As for anime porn? Can be OK on occasion but it's not a hobby...prefer the real thing, thank you.

Raccoon said...

I'm going to suggest a short-term membership to , which is a medical airlift company. It's one that I'm going to be using when I go to Korea in August.

You're going to Japan -- I'm kind of jealous. But, I haven't been watching that much anime lately. I've been watching Korean soaps & movies instead.

Did you know that they have a live-action version of "Cutie Honey" and "La Blue Girl?" LBG live-action is nothing like the anime version...

em said...

Just reading this, I'm totally looking forward to the pictures.

lilwatchergirl said...

It sounds fantastic. You're making me want to go (apart from the no access thing...)

I can relate to the problem of what to write when nothing but bile and grr-ing is emerging. Wishing you an 'improved pain levels' day.

kathz said...

I read this just after the later post about the crappy day you've been having. Japan sounds wonderful and I hope there's a way to some of those shrines, like monks or nuns carrying you there. And I hope that looking forward to the time you and Linda will spend in Japan helps you through the bad times.

Elizabeth McClung said...

Sorry, I was AWOL/Comatose Yesterday - okay!

Cheryl: I can't wait to lend Blue Line and Last Uniforms to you! Yeah, sword maidens!

Olivia: Thank you for voting for me, I hope I get the residency too. I think Japan is about a million details but only like 7 weeks away (scary!) - but we are going, because this is our window, and if we lose it, well, no trip to Japan (for $380, anyway else want to come to Japan?)

Elizabeth: I have always wanted to go and while I know that not all guys are having yoai relationships and it isn't manga or anime land, it still is a unique culture which has buildings and events going back hundreds of years - so Edo village here we come! Bummed about the "winding stone path" to the shrine for women though (vertical is NOT winding)

Katrin: Yeah, I hope it is everything we dream and more. And I WILL go, well enough or not.

Wiccachicky: Nara is on our list, I am of COURSE going to feed tame deer, I wouldn't miss that. We have a rough Itinerary and I will try to post it on Friday so that anyone who has some ideas of what is missing and a MUST SEE, can add them in.

Neil: as to your points, my care worker agrees with number one though as she says, "Just go to emergency, in 30 minutes you will be lying on the floor looking funny and go straight to the head of the line"

Point two is that God knows what is up, my only complaint is that God is overly generous in "What I am capable of bearing" But like you, I would eliminate these diseases if at all possible - but if not, then the stories of the disease and the people around them, affected by them must be told - we in the WEST must stop seperating ourselves from disability and disease, as much as we don't like it, people with disability and disease aren't aliens, they are us.

And now you end with your Konan of the day which is about that if I could go there, I would be able to or something Zen like that. Well, I tend to be a literalist Zen, in that when someone says stone path, I don't want to see stairs, no metaphors when planning for wheelchair tourism!

Neil: Actually boat people have no humor either and I have been held in a bulletproof booth and questioned for going to a competition with five epees (or "Swords" as they called them. Not sure how I was supposed to kill everyone and take over boat with competition epee's but never too careful I guess.....or never to idiotic)

An epee IS a mobility device - It makes me want to get OVER there where the person annoying me's groin is. Linda laughed at your Xena joke. I just kept saying, "What?" and she just kept laughing.

Kate J: With Linda around, pictures will be both amazing and in the thousands (will share the best 30 or so). We have 10 gigs of photo cards already. I'll be over to see your pic as soon as I can (honest), I have been a bit out of late.

Dawn: Thanks for getting it, so what are your dreams? Cuba? Safari? Yeah, I have a hard time keeping my mind on the "big picture" whatever that it, but feeding deer in Japan, that I can figure.

Lisa: well, several have said that Japan is near wheelchair inaccessible, but we are going to see how true that is - and try to do as much liasoning with people over here to set stuff up over there as possible. I think in Japan, you aren't supposed to stand out, golly, giant lesbian in wheelchair......I hope I blend in.

Cooper: I love anime becuase it often has strong women doing things (with swords, or sports) which I can't find here, so I want to find out why a culture where women are supposed to get married and have children have so many shows about girls and women DOING stuff and being heros and taking charge and getting together and getting things done. Come along with us to Japan (or at least by photos?)

Raccoon: Thank you for the VERY practical suggestion. Have you seen Foul King? Or Friends, or been watching the Soap Winter (a classic), or Once Upon a time in a High school. I really want to see Korean too, but I had to chose one. That sounds like a great trip.

Em: I will tell Linda...that will drive her on to new heights!

lilwatchergirl: it is hard to find the "nice" when you don't want to be surly anymore - which is why I have a dream (and you do too don't you: LEEDS!)

Kathz: Thanks, I think it will, nothing like planning a trip to bring out the excitment, and then we can watch Japanese movies and play the "I was there" game when we get back. I am just a LITTLE worried at the wackload of painkillers and other drugs I will be packing.

cheryl g. said...

So are you not familiar with Xena? I can certainly see the resemblance...