Japan on my mind |1|

April 4, 2014 0 comment

I have been daydreaming about our upcoming trip to Japan lately, watching this video January in Japan. I love the way director Scott Gold shares with us the simple things of life there, the way the camera moves around so delicately. We will be there in just a few days, we cannot wait. (Remember my post Sakura daydreaming exactly two years ago?!)Our itinerary has been carefully planned by the ever-resourceful & very patient Mark at Inside Japan on tight deadlines. We’re tagging along a work conference that Ceki has in Kyoto hence the last minute decision (helped by the fact that we managed to rent our place in London for Easter..high five).

I am excited by what is in the plan: 17 nights travelling around the country by “bullet train” staying in a mix of comfortable hotels and simple ryokans (aka b&b’s where you sleep on tatamis, the whole family together, with hot baths just like in Totoro). Here it goes:

Osaka (for the adjustment) – Naoshima island (for the art) – Miyajima island (for the temple in the water and the dears walking around) – Kyoto for Kyoto – The Japanese Alps (for the sake brewing, snow monkeys and the old wooden houses) – Finish in Tokyo.

April is prime time to visit Japan as everyone wants to experience the magic of the cherry blossom. It was hard to find accommodations, especially because we are a family of five now and can’t easily just crash somewhere. Big aligato to my Japanese office neighbour Fumiko who answered tirelessly many of my questions (Ps: Fumiko has a real-estate business to help Japanese expats find accommodation in London…in case you ever have a Japanese cousin moving to London and needing a place to stay?!!)

I bought a few guide books from my favorite travel bookshop in London: Daunt Books. I particularly love the Marylebone location with its old wood panels and dusty cushions on the floor, with departments arranged by regions of the world. I also picked up a copy of Snow Country by nobel-prize winner Yasunari Kawabata. I remember being moved so much by this novel when I was young(er) and I have dreamt of spending time in rural Japan ever since. I hope I will be jet lagged enough to keep my eyes open for it at night.

We laughed with Fumiko the other day in the staircase when I told her how I watched all the Takeshi Kitano’s Japanese mafia movies and she watched all of Godard’s.  Remember the hilarious exhibition of Kitano’s work in Paris, which I talked about here?

Talking about which, Marcelo and Amalya are big fans of Hayao Miyazaki, one of the greatest animation directors – we have his DVDs in English, in French and in Turkish! It will be a highlight for them when they visit the Ghibli Studio in Tokyo. Apparently you need to book tickets well in advance. Has anyone seen his latest movie, The Wind Rises? It has drawn quite a controversy, we are eagerly awaiting it. Actually, we will be near Hiroshima at some point, but I am still debating whether to take the children to the memorials… I think we will use it more as an opportunity to talk about the horrors of war, as Marcelo and Amalya are probably too young for the full reality. I’d love to get your thoughts on this.

Miyazaki's collection

Japan is said to be enjoying a massive tourism boom this year thanks to the weak yen and the fact that travel was halted after the tsunami. Everyone now feels safer to visit. Just two years ago, in March 2011, the earthquake and the tsunami killed 18,000 people. This video The Tsunami and the Cherry Blossom is a very moving hommage:

And here are some of my bookmarks, which might come in handy if we get lost in translation:

– I am glad I discovered the blog Abi Loves…Kids, from Abigail Terrien, an inspired & inspiring beautiful mom living in Tokyo.

– This blog Hello Sandwich from an Australian illustrator living in Tokyo is full of fun reads.

– Playtime’s City Guide to Tokyo, Monocle’s and  Conde Nast’s on Kyoto are good for references.

– Ayse’s blog Eat Travel Love makes me drool. I want to have all that she is having.

– Travel writer Chris Rowthorn got it nailed down with Kyoto itineraries for families. Too bad he was fully booked when I contacted him.

– Did you ever ask yourself why Japanese children always lead the world in numeracy and literacy?

– And here’s a good read on the topic of 10 surprising things about Parenting in Japan.

– And this last one makes me laugh: What’s that, answering many of the weird (weird to who?!) things we will encounter in Japan.

Sayonara & Aligato!

Ps: here’s my friend Jeanne and I being silly at Jin Kichi, one of my favorite sushi restaurant in London:)

silly at Jin Kichi

Ps: we won’t have time to go South and take the Limited Express Aso Boy but the children would love the kawai family cabins.

And Ps: Noma’s Rene Redzepi just announced today that he will ‘guest-chef’ for 2 months in Tokyo early 2015…bon app.

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