The Week in Haiku – Adventures in Japan 2
Our second week of adventures in Japan and we are getting into our stride. We’ve been hiking in the Japan Alps, cuddling cats in a cat cafe, meeting robots, being blinded by neon, searching for Mount Fuji and praying to the Gods of IT. If you missed our first week of haiku journal click here. Meanwhile read on for a flavour of life in and around Tokyo…in 17 syllables.
Haiku of the Day 8: Traffic Forecast
Keeping to your lane
on a cloud superhighway
steers you clear of…rain?
Coming directly from The Philippines where just being on a road takes bottle, and expecting the madness of Asia, we instantly warm to Japanese roads. Granted, it takes ages to get anywhere as the average speed seems to be 40k an hour. But even in big cities like Osaka, the traffic is polite and orderly; no one ever crosses a road without a green man flashing, and rush hour happens in slow motion.
We don’t expect similar road discipline and rules on a mountainside. But we get them. On a day’s hiking to Happo Ike in the northern Alps above Hakuba we discover a boardwalk has been erected all the way up the pass to the small lake. There are hundreds using it. Everyone sticks to their own lane. The landscape isn’t eroded in any way. And it looks and feels so orderly. English lake District authorities take notice. Maybe the solution to eroded fells lies with your Japanese visitors…
Haiku of the Day 9: Cat Cafe
It’s a full time job;
de-stressing humans, through play.
Cuddles, but no pay.
Cat cafes are big business in Japan. Time and space limited workers are fond of taking an hour out at the end of the day to pet and cuddle a cat. (Rabbits are popular too.) But there are other reasons why the Japanese go mad for cats; folklore says they bring good fortune, they’re cute, and they make good cartoon figures.
We stumble across a cat cafe in Azumino City and can’t resist trying it out. We are given two menus- one food related and the other feline. And then, an hour of petting, playing, chasing and tickling. The kids love it.
“I didn’t imagine it would be so popular” says Yoko Oguchi, who opened Cats and Cafe last month. “My husband and my sister love cats and after retirement we want to live with many cats. This is our dream.”
Haiku of the Day 10: Robot love
Cuddle an android
and you may end up making
The Japanese know the future is robots. You can meet androids in Tokyo, not on the streets (yet) but in the Tokyo Science Museum where you can interact with Azimo, Otonaroid and Telenoid. It’s slightly freaky and makes you question what it is to be human and what makes us recognise something as human or human like.
Otonaroid is beautiful, feminine and a little jerky but not quite as disturbing as the allegedly therapeutic baby torso Telenoid pictured here. Is this the future of human android love?
Haiku of the Day 11: Tokyo Gold
The brashest city
blushes with gold, till someone
turns on the neon.
Who is in charge of turning on the neon in Tokyo? Is there a code followed by all the bars and restaurants? Is there a guy in the sky in charge of the big switch on each night, waiting to press the button like the B listers at the Blackpool Christmas lights?
Having just witnessed my first Tokyo sunset, I am surprised that it doesn’t go directly from daylight to strip light like it does in films. Instead there is quite literally a golden hour; where the pastel heat drains from the sky and a golden blush flushes along the river, through the rainbow bridge and up through the skyscrapers and towers. Pure Tokyo gold.
Haiku of the Day 12: Robot Dining
Tack and tech collide,
a fusion, not of flavour
but science and myth.
In the restaurants of Britain and Europe chefs compete to reinvent and re-energise food, turning it from raw ingredients into high tech concoctions. In Tokyo’s Robot Restaurant hardly anyone bothers to buy the picnic, the science is all around, eating would be a distraction from the future. Tanks, swings, chariots, horses, floating stages, strip lights, rollerskates, angels, devils, snakes, pandas, pantomime cows, lights and glitter and dancing; it’s all here, lit by LED , lantern and laser, to the tune of a drumming, pumping Gangnam beat.
Oh, and the robots. Unbelievably huge in a tiny space, they just keep coming. That never happened in The Fat Duck. More pictures, video and prose from our visit to the Robot Restaurant Tokyo available in this post.
Haiku of the Day 13: An Audience with Fuji San
An Audience with Fuji San
Fuji San chooses.
Not you. Oft hidden idol.
You must watch, wait, pray.
Mount Fuji is more than a mountain. It is a sacred mountain and must be addressed as such. Even the rail station is called Fuji San, a formal and respectful way of addressing this powerful, volcanic icon of Japan. Legend is that you don’t decide to see Mount Fuji, it decides to show itself to you. For centuries, people have been going on pilgrimages up this mountain, visiting the many shrines that exist along the routes to the 3776 metre summit, the highest in Japan, often to see nothing but cloud.
Too late in the day to do the walk, we decide to swim in each of its five sacred lakes, the Fujigoko, in an attempt to pay respect and hopefully coax it out of the clouds, but our efforts are largely in vain. Although we do manage to catch a brief glimpse whilst in the car between lakes.
Haiku of the Day 14: Heavenly Cloud
Fear of data loss?
Seek blessing at I.T. shrine,
for Godly back-up.
There seems to be a shrine for everything in Japan. Pay your respects, make your offering and seek blessings wisely and maybe everything will be alright. The kids were intrigued to find a shrine for geeks at the top of a multi storey car park at the Aqua City shopping centre in Tokyo. Not the kind of place you would expect any kind of shrine, let alone one where you could appeal for hi tech back up.
But having lost an i-Pod in a glacier on a former trip, they were taking no chances. And neither was I. We all clapped and bowed and wished for the safe passage of our phones and computers. Suitably Tokyo don’t you think?
More Japanese Adventures
For more on our Japanese Adventures why not check out our Week in Haiku posts. While travelling around Japan we wrote a haiku every day, capturing something of the highlights of our daily travel experiences in verse together with a brief explanation and a picture. You can find the posts here:
Haiku Travel Diary: Adventures in Japan Week 1. In which we introduce you to purikura, lantern festivals, geisha tea parties and shrine etiquette.
Another Week in Haiku: Adventures in Japan 3. In which we get poetic about maglev trains, participatory dance festivals, the spirit world, pumpkins and atom bombs.
Yet Another Week in Haiku: Adventures in Japan 4. On bamboo groves, industrial incineration plants, car factories, ancient Buddhist cemeteries and more.