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).
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