I am always eager to see how the world looks through the eyes of another person and how that person chooses to express his or her vision. There was once a very poignant line from perhaps the most soul-touching anime/manga that I have ever seen, when the protagonist Takemoto Yuuto wishes "How I wonder what it is like to see the world through Hagu's (his main love interest and fellow artist) eyes." That is why I love animation so much, because it is one medium that is a direction interpretation of the director's vision and needs to be planned out panel by panel; nothing is left to chance whereas in say a movie, each actor, set conditions, etc. all bring in their vision and interpretation into how a certain scene will unfold. In animation, there is really nothing left to chance, every little movement, every blink of eye, every little bird and critters in the backdrop, are all planned (save the limitations caused by budget restrictions). A friend once commented that the ingenuity of Japanese animators and mangaka is that they have taken a landscape that is very ordinary to the Japanese people and made them great symbols and landmarks. Miyazaki Hayao can take the idyllic country side or something so simple like a girl going up stairs and somehow reinterpret the mundane into something charming and new, or the way Makoto Shinkai uses light filtered into the classroom or trains takes the everyday and transforms it into a surreal, brilliant world which makes your heart ache a little bit because its so beautiful. Whenever I see a Ferris wheel, I cannot help being reminded of Honey & Clover (the circularity of life being a major theme), and when I saw Tokyo Tower and Rainbow Bridge, I couldn't help being reminded of CLAMP (and destruction).
|And life goes on... Odaiba Ferris Wheel|
|Fuji TV in Odaiba|
I had so much fun in Tokyo, and this trip really was just an overview trip, where I could see, do and eat as much as I can in a limited time, hence it was like a preview trip. Now that I got a good preview, I would love to return and see all the places I didn't get to see and delve into places in detail. Though it's really hard to choose what my favorite place was, I think Odaiba was the most impressionable to me. There's something strangely surreal, a bit futuristic about Odaiba, which is an artificial island made in the Tokyo Bay. It was tourist friendly with shopping, dining, onsen and great scenery, and yet, it was still more quirky than commercial. There was a cat cafe (the Japanese love cats), the strangely eerie (in my opinion) Fuji Television building with the globe, the Urikamome monorail which gives you an awesome view of the Bay area, the Ferris Wheel, supposedly one of the largest in the world, and the great view of Rainbow Bridge, Tokyo Tower and the Statue of Liberty's mini-me. There was even an onsen called Oedo Onsen Monogatori, which is designed in 1800 Edo-style, where we got to wear a yukata and soak our poor, tired feet. There are many cute shops in there as well.
|Cat Cafe in Odaiba... Reminded me of the Nekobasu in Totoro ^^|
|Urikamome Train Station|
|Oeda Onsen Monogatori|
I actually understood a lot more Japanese than I thought I would (thanks to all the anime and drama I watched), but I think this trip really taught me the more practical languages used when shopping or ordering food. After all, being able to say "You are my most important person" or "the hurt in my heart could be heard like the sound of rain" or something nonsensical like that is of of no practical use. The single most useful word I found was "sumimasen" which an translate to "I'm sorry" or "excuse me" depending on the situation, whether you are calling a waiter, or you are pushing through a crowd of people up the stairs in the subway, or you are about to ask a question. On the first day we arrived in Tokyo, my friend and I were walking down the street late at night and a man, a bit drunk, started up a conversation with us, first asking us (the tourists) directions, then tried to invite us to karaoke. We said "sumimasen" and we excused ourselves. After many failed prior attempts to take a good shot, I was able to snap that full shot of the Ferris wheel dangerously sticking my head out of the taxi window on my way to the airport. "Sumimasen," I told the taxi driver and he chuckled.
|CLAMP Manga Galore in Shibuya|
|Wall of mangaka in Shibuya... I didn't see the no photo sign until after I took the photo. Can you spot a mangaka you know?|
|Cosplay store in Harajuku...|
The problem is, I can utter enough of the language to minimally get by, but that's it. And then, they begin speaking so rapidly that I lose track. On my way back, at Haneda Airport, I was checking in my bags and the man assisting me rapidly began listing off all these questions, to which I just replied, "Hai, hai." I did understand the first couple, but then, I completely lost track of what he was saying. Either way, when I arrived back in Seoul, my luggage was the third one out because it was labeled with a "Priority" sticker. I have no idea why, but I can assume it must be thanks to my lack of language skills.
|Maneki Neko... (Lucky Cats) everywhere!!! I wasn't supposed to take photos in this certain store in Asakusa.|
Lastly, on our way back, I was unluckily in the center aisle seat, but I was able to catch the timing to see Mt. Fuji. The seat belt signs hadn't gone off yet, and the flight attendant initially told me I couldn't go over to the window area, but I went "Sashin o kudasai" which was the only words that I could think of. And the flight attendant understood right away and went, "Ah, Fuji-san..." And so, I was able to snap this beautiful shot of Mt. Fuji up from the sky.
|Mt. Fuji submersed in clouds...|