A Different Japan – All White This Time

Murakami’s Japan

You are probably familiar with Hokkaido if you are a Murakami fan. That is the region in Japan that Murakami’s characters will either think of or actually travel up to just to leave behind the busy Tokyo. I can now understand why Hokkaido is always mentioned in Murakami’s books in one way or other. Anyone who has been to Hokkaido and who is emerged in some sort of art form or literature would probably not be able to get that place out of their minds.

In winter, Hokkaido is fully covered with snow and there are forest parts but there are also those parts where only couple of trees just stand up in the middle of an entirely white landscape – creating such impressive and dramatic views. Despite all of this, I initially had serious doubts about traveling up to Hokkaido as part of my second trip to Japan. I so badly wanted to go up there but the fact that I do not drive when traveling (I actually never drive), the weather reports, the limited public transportation options available in the winter and a description of the region as “even people living in Hokkaido die in the winter as they cannot find their way home because of snowstorms” by one of the photographers I reached out to while planing my trip made me seriously re-consider my decision.

Fortunately, I was able to beat my occasionally emerging travel anxiety and decided to go as the photos I have seen of the area were so inviting and I was also able to contact a Japanese photographer (dear Abe-san running the website www.bieiland.com) online who agreed to give me a day tour of the Biei area with his own vehicle (well if you know me you would not be surprised to also find out that I and a team of co-workers conducted a detailed online investigation to make sure that this guy was okay – his hair style, forum discussions and family composition were throughly reviewed and analyzed with the help of a Japanese colleague who contributed his sociological insights in relation to the Japanese culture).

Hokkaido, Tokyo and Kyoto

My recent trip to Japan covered Tokyo, Hokkaido and the lovely Kyoto. I was not sure whether I would spend more time in Tokyo or I would also go down to Kyoto (as I have been there before) before I actually landed to Tokyo. I am happy to now have seen Tokyo not only because it makes me appreciate Kyoto even more but also it is a very different type of metropolis compared to the other usual suspects in that area. I however did not like Tokyo that much and the areas that I actually  liked (like Ropongi) were those where the concept of modern architecture is taken to a whole new level, very impressive for the architecture fans. Tokyo, just like Osaka, reminded me of the things about Japan that I always have hard time understanding/appreciating such as immense admiration of the western culture more on a product and consuming level rather than the substance of the culture and then those night lights (although great for photography) that I always feel like aim to divert the attention of the people and promote the cyber entertainment rather than the actual one, eventually leading to certain personal issues. So I decided to cut my stay in Tokyo relatively short and spend the last three days in Kyoto where I believe the Japanese culture is represented at its highest level and it is a place where I am reminded of everything I love about Japan such as modesty, simplicity, tranquility and patience.