Thursday, June 25, 2009

From a train in Japan

On trains in Japan
Local trains in Japan are very strange. They are quite crowded. However, there is no pushing. Instead, there is only silence. There is no eating, chatting, laughter, or colour. There are many men in suits, sleeping, and many women in skirts, sleeping, and many school or college students, sleeping; if they are not sleeping, they are reading or sms-ing.

It is not customary to talk loudly, eat, or push. Usually people are alone in trains. Not with other people. If you are with other people, you are usually staring at them instead of talking to them.

So if your leg is hurt, you can’t talk to people and ask for a seat. You just have to stand and wait (even for one hour). People don’t notice, and don’t care enough to offer you a seat. They need their sleep.

The Shinkansen is quite fast though. And comfortable. With reserved seats.

My favourite area in Japan so far has been Shinjuku. Sadly, it was not the “Japanese” culture that attracted me to it, but the urban hippie culture. Shinjuku has an area called Golden Town littered with these tiny bars. I can’t even describe their charm. Low light, jazz and blues, interesting people like Kuro (an artist), who has retired to the tiny lanes of golden town, and Hoshi (a photographer), who was more than ready to strip to show off his tattoos to foreigners. There is also “second line bar” a few steps away from golden town that offers an excellent pot of blues for thinking and writing and feeling all night long. Machan, the owner, is now 41 but looks not a day over 28 and would describe the one quality that will define his life partner as comfortable. He learnt his English from the music.

Shinkuju also has several love hotels, where couples can stay for one night. These hotels are filled with entertainment like DVDs or Jacuzzis and heart-shaped beds and transparent bathrooms. It also has many brothels and host clubs where women go to see men in long hair shake their small bums. I skipped this part.

The onsen culture in Japan is rampant. Onsen basically refers to a hot spring. Japan being a volcanic region, there are many many many onsen all over Japan. But you don’t just go out and sit around in a pond of hot water. Many onsen hotels are built along the region that extract the water from the hot spring and make a mini pool of it. The water is usually around 40 to 45 degrees hot. They say sitting in an onsen for around an hour will make you loose one kilo. Because of all the sweat. They also say that all the “bad” from your body goes out into the water. Hotel because, you usually go into the onsen at night. And after you are out, you are exhausted! And it is best to sleep right away. Like giving a baby a hot bath. An important part of onsen is that you have to enter it in the nude. Of course, there are separate onsen for men and women. At first it’s strange, but two times down it’s like eating.

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