I’m sick of talking about Europe. I’m sick of talking about Vote Leave and the fact they can’t seem to exhale without telling at least one barefaced lie, or the fact their leading lights seem physically unable to write their own names without using some sort of logical fallacy (“fallacy” being a word derived from a corruption of the Latin “phallus” that means “the act of being a fucking dick”). So instead I’m going to post something about the fact I was in Japan recently to visit my partner, who is over there studying at the moment. I was going to write it in some travelogue-style format but I am about as suited to writing travelogues as I am to childbirth, so here instead are a series of bullet points. You can, if you wish, imagine some sort of connecting paragraphs between them.
- I am excessively paranoid about travel connections and trust National Express’ punctuality record about as much as I trust sandpaper condoms, so booked a coach from Norwich that arrived at Heathrow seven hours before my flight was due to leave and four hours before I would even be allowed through the gate. In hindsight, this was a mistake.
- My flight cost me £400 return to go halfway around the world. It was better than it had any right to be, although given that all I’d been told about the airline (China Eastern) that may just be because I was half-expecting a British Leyland bus with a single jet engine and wings made of feathers.
- Airside at Heathrow Terminal 4 was busy, annoying and depressing until I paid £25 to get into the SkyTeam lounge and drank:
ATTENTION ALL: TUMBLERS LOCATED, SOCO DISPENSED, BLOON PISSED pic.twitter.com/mKIniYE1r6
— Bloonface (@bloonface) May 21, 2016
- Arriving into a country where the main written language looks like strange inscrutable runes to you after around thirty hours without any decent sleep clutching a Midland Bank Griffin Savers bag from the mid-1980s (don’t ask) and a paper bag containing a stuffed panda (ditto) is not a good look and is actually rather like having a severe head injury.
- Japan has no litter. Discarded wrappers and fag butts were as noteworthy as it is in the UK seeing a minor celebrity.
- Approximately 60% of Japan’s economy appears to be made up of convenience stores, of which there are twelve per person and which despite being of various brands (the chief ones being 7-Eleven, FamilyMart and Lawson, none of which are present in the UK in any way and the latter of which charmed me a bit with its bizarre branding style that looks like and actually more or less is something from 1950s America) are all more or less equivalent in terms of range and price. I was a bit worried that some of the only ATMs that take foreign debit cards were in 7-Elevens until I found out you couldn’t fall over without banging your head off of one.
- I genuinely, sincerely miss being able to walk past a vending machine (which there are fucking loads of, even more than there are convenience stores), put in about 130 yen and receive a can of decent cold coffee from a reasonably extensive range, which beats the piss out of maybe paying nearly £3 for a plastic cup of cold Starbucks shit from a Tesco Express. I ended up quite fond of the Boss brand, partially because its logo resembles Clement Attlee, my personal favourite being the Gay Pride Clement Attlee variant:
- Yo! Sushi can fuck right off. £3 to £8 per plate for what I have on good authority is about as close to good, authentic sushi as Big Macs are is a joke when you can literally get great, freshly made sushi for ¥100 a plate in Japan. They’ve taken what is essentially the cheapest fast food imaginable and turned it into something ridiculously expensive and shit, and then had the temerity to call it “Japanese”. I have never been into Yo! Sushi as I haven’t ever felt the need, but I felt I should put this point of view across on behalf of my sort-of-Japanese-ex-pat partner, who despite being very calm and mild-mannered can’t walk past the place without wanting to firebomb it after once paying upwards of £30 for an amount of shit sushi she would have got for around £4. It takes effort to not even have your price be authentic.
- In fact, everything is cheap beyond words. While I was there I was mentally converting everything into sterling, so the above sushi became 70p a plate, the coffee about 90p, some meals out at the rough Japanese equivalent of Little Chef about £4 a head. The issue then came that when I got back and had to pay £4 for a shit “meal deal” in the Heathrow branch of Smiths I mentally converted that back to ¥640. The whole place has ruined buying things in the UK for me. You have no idea what an imposition £3 for a Tesco ready meal is until you’ve been overseas to a country just as advanced (more so even) than this one and you can get a full freshly cooked sit down meal for about same amount. For added fun, try going into Marks and Spencer and see how many £5/¥800 ready meals you can see before you think about assaulting someone.
- Why don’t we have Calpis here?
- Nicotine energy drinks are abundant and are a concept that should be imported into the UK without delay.
- A country where you can buy a small bottle of tolerable whisky (note: actual bottle, not a miniature) for £2 is one I’d be quite happy to live in. A country where you can buy a 4 litre bottle of that same whisky for £21 is one where I’d probably die of liver failure.
Morning lads pic.twitter.com/j5lutPQrMu
— Bloonface (@bloonface) May 26, 2016
- The whole attitude to everything in Japan is markedly different to the UK. As mentioned, there’s no litter, everything is clean and maintained, there’s no graffiti, and people generally seem to respect each other and their surroundings. It’s a very different ethos; whereas the attitude of the average Brit appears to be something along the lines of “this country is my pot as much as it is anyone else’s and I’ll piss in it if I want to”, the Japanese attitude appears to be “why would I want to piss in my own pot?” There’s a general sense that the country actually invests in making its infrastructure good and public spaces pleasant to be in, which makes a pleasant contrast to the UK’s general tenor that everyone living happily in a well-maintained, clean, efficient country comes second to the desire to spend no money whatsoever on anything.
- Deer are vicious fuckers. We went to Nara, where deer roam freely and can be fed with special deer biscuits, which is advertised as a magical and exciting experience; this is true, in the same sense that using Domestos to mix drinks gives your mouth an amazing new sensation. Oh sure, the deer look cute, right up until you buy the biscuits, at which point they swarm you. Originally, the plan (stupid though my partner told me it would be) was to lure a deer in with some of the biscuits and then stroke it and be friends with it and be one with nature. This plan lasted about twelve seconds before I panicked and just threw away the biscuits as I was swarmed by about six deer who could sense that there was food available, that I was holding the food and that I could give them the food but I just wasn’t doing so; my partner actually did the same but still got bitten. If I wasn’t so utterly paranoid about having my face visible on a site where I call numerous authority figures horrible things you’d currently be looking at a video of me being accosted by some of the cutest bastards you’ll ever see.
- We also went to a private nude hot spring. Similar to the above, you’re not going to be seeing a picture of me sitting in idyllic surroundings with my bollocks out, albeit for different reasons (i.e. such pictures being banned under the Geneva conventions as a crime against humanity).
In conclusion, if you want to eat amazing food extremely cheaply, see what a society that actually gives a shit about making things nice looks like and realise just how off base the whole “wacky Japan” stereotype really is, then visit Japan. If anyone would like to fund me going over there again until this bullshit referendum is over and done with, or better yet for several decades afterwards, I’d be quite grateful.