Just watched this movie (Lost in Translation) in its entirety as soon as we landed from Japan, and I totally identified with all the themes presented. Although I’m not usually alone when I travel, I’m addicted to the sweet melancholy of being in a new city where I can’t understand the language and I’m not familiar with the culture. I love that huge culture shock as soon as I step off the plane and I’m thrown off into the deep end – I’m jetlagged yet insomniac, completely disoriented and confused, but I feel so present and alive.
Japan is so unlike any other country I’ve been to – I’ve been four times, and I can’t get enough of it. The Japanese are some of the most friendly people you’ll ever meet, yet society itself is efficient and disciplined – you can literally time your watch to the Japanese bullet trains. Polite to a fault, to the point where shop assistants will stop everything they’re doing and bow you out the door when all you’ve bought is one macaron, it’s so refreshing to find people who still place importance on respect and good manners.
P and I got lost in Kyoto once – I stupidly hopped on a bus that I thought was going into the city centre but in fact went many miles in the opposite direction out to the countryside. By the time P and I figured this out, we’d already been on the bus for an hour and we were in the middle of rural Japan with nary an English signpost or speaker in sight. A lovely group of elderly Japanese ladies noticed our panic, and despite the fact that they couldn’t speak a word of English, they rallied together to try to explain to us how to get back. After a lot of pointing at maps and sign language, the bus driver took us off his normal route to get us onto a route that would take us back, and the ladies all tried to give us about 1000yen each, which of course we didn’t accept. We were so grateful, we couldn’t stop bowing and saying domo arigato as we backed out the bus to the driver and those sweet elderly ladies.
I can honestly say I’ve never experienced such an amazing culture, particularly in a world where lost tourists get a sigh and rolled eyes. I can’t wait to go back!