Tokyo Tantrums

Japan ~ Tokyo – 2015

Tokyo has a big city sort of reputation to it, an air of grandeur accompanied with a sense of mystery somewhere within the non-stop luminous glare of the lights and the 24/7 rush…

So many films have painted a picture that has made an impression on me, and because of this it was high on the list of places I wanted to see…so when I realised I had a long weekend coming up I didn’t hesitate and booked it up straight away! Just a couple of hours to get from my home in Korea to the unknown world beyond – armed with nothing but a friend’s recommendations (which proved invaluable) and a feeling I was soon to be in my very own Lost in Translation remake…

Lost Trans GIF

Sidenote: when travelling you really do need to think long and hard about who you will actually travel with. Well maybe not too thorough – nothing too ridiculous, but at the very least you need to see a clean bill of health (both physical and mental), a criminal background check, and dental records. Also check their voice and typical conversation topics as otherwise you may be locked in with the most boring groaner on the planet – which is never going to be fun. With this particular adventure I was meaning to go alone originally, and then at the last minute a lady friend of mine tagged along…which brought some erm, shall we say – complications? 

Anyway I mean this sincerely when I say that Tokyo is a marvel. So much to see and do, a far cry from the more reserved and traditional parts of Japan I had visited earlier in the year.  But oddly I found it manages to retain a fantastic balance between the two often conflicting sides; you see one second I’d be staring up at a 60 foot tall science fiction juggernaut in the form of the powerful Gundam, the next I was wearing a traditional yukata and relaxing in an onsen…then I’d blink and be back to the mad rush of the Shibuya scramble crossing! I was completely in my element, roving around searching for the weird and wonderful, straining my neck to try and see as much as I possibly could…it was everything I had dreamed about for so long, and so much more…

Shibuya GIF

But yeah: the ghost at the feast…the wasp at the picnic…the drunk and slightly creepy uncle at the family reunion. Hmm, that last one was a bit weird, but you get my point – this is the part of the story where I say what didn’t go so smoothly, and most of it had to do with my travel companion: hence my warning earlier. You see I try my utmost to remain as friendly and light hearted as possible during trips, as from experience I understand that it can be a pretty stressful period if you let the small things seep in and truly affect you…if you do that suddenly the foul smell of a certain street, the incessant honking of horns on the road, or perhaps even your friend’s breathing can have you suddenly enraged beyond all comprehension: like smashing an axe into a locked door screaming “heeeeere’s Johnny!”  sort of level rage. So it’s best to take a deep breath instead, and just let most hiccups roll off your back…

However, my lady friend didn’t share this ethos…which meant that any small thing became the reason for a monumental day-ruining mood. Juxtapose that dark rain cloud along with my attempted cheery sense of humour and you had quite a pairing; something like if Voldemort was to meet one of the Teletubbies. Well actually that’s unfair (to he who must not be named): it would only be like that if Voldemort had the emotional range to both grimace and groan about public transport, and literally burst into tears about the levels of salt in Japanese food…as it stands I don’t think he is quite on her level yet.

I can understand the frustration though, Tokyo is huge and it’s far too easy to become dazed and confused by the sprawling subway system: which I honestly think was designed by someone throwing spaghetti at the wall, and saying: “that’ll do just fine.” We took many wrong turns during our days there, and the hours were long and well travelled…but I don’t see how it helps remaining silent or dragging your feet along as if you are a pathetically non-threatening zombie, or almost defunct robot:

Robot GIF

There is an answer to such problems though, and one which I will gladly share with all of you…and that is; beer. Yes, you heard it here first! The golden elixir is the perfect remedy to all sorts of ailments, including the frustration you may feel when a friend (or something more) is becoming more than you can bear. Thankfully there was a so-called “English pub” just off a side street near to the Shibuya crossing…where for three times the normal price I could enjoy beer, ales, and all that good stuff as if I was back amongst the smoke and laughing guffaws of my homeland…“Wait, it’s how much?! Jesus tap-dancing Christ!? It’s not worth that!”

But yeah, that’s how things go! Ups and downs, smiles and frowns…you have to take the good with the bad, and try to carve out memories that will last: and despite all the issues we were still able to do that…pretty much.

However I must now look for an AA meeting in South Korea: so yeah, wish me luck. 

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Don’t EVER Travel!

We all have our own custom-made worries, responsibilities, musings, and quandaries…things we must do, things we dream of doing, and a whole bunch of things we don’t ever even want to think about doing. And it’s because of this that the weight of the world can, at times, get on top of us…and if we’re not careful – overwhelm us completely…

I’m having one of those times at the moment,  I mean I’m fine for the most part – but not fine-fine…like if someone was to ask “how are you?” – I’d still reply with “I’m fine” – but it wouldn’t be entirely truthful, I’d just be sort of going through the usual motions, you know?

Fine GIF

I’m a better liar than Ross though, I think…

That’s what they don’t tell you about leaving home for some far-flung country; the way you feel so feckless, helpless, useless, and a whole load other things with ‘less’ at the end. Apart from bless of course, as it’s no blessing to be away from family in times of need – in fact I’d argue the exact opposite; it’s a fucking curse. 

You feel guilty for not being there, particularly during the more miserable occasions; deaths, illnesses, surgeries – all that fun stuff. But when you do return you realise that everyone is…well…everyone is fine – and that life has been rolling on without you, as it inevitably always will.

That’s the irony, I suppose – you feel selfish for being away from loved ones, and yet when you come back you feel selfish for believing you were so necessary to people’s daily survival that your homecoming should have been on a Jesus level…that the very sight of you should have cured all of the woes people had been suffering in your absence…that you were the missing piece, and now you’ve been found again – so let’s rejoice and have a thousand wines, or you know, whatever Jesus did*…

Jesus GIF

Artist’s rendition*

Either way, life’s not like that. It would be great if it was – but it isn’t, and that is hard to deal with. We have to make our decisions, and live with the consequences; “happily ever after” is just a narrow and simple-minded fallacy that seeks to act as a blanket statement to cover over all of life’s hidden intricacies and complexities…all of the pain, and suffering…all of the worry, and remorse…basically all of the things that mean you truly care, all of the things that make you a living, breathing, and feeling human.

Sucks to be you, sorry mate…I’m sure you’ll be fine.

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Please buy my collection of stories! Get it in paperback here – or on Kindle here! ALL proceeds go towards Macmillan Cancer Support!