By Alessandro Carosi
I lived in Japan for a short time but the memories I carry with me are the most valuable that no amount of money could buy ,there are many things I do not agree with this country but the experience I had while living there is a treasure that I will never forget.
Kaori and me had to leave Australia and thought would be a great experience for me to visit and live for a while in her home country ,her family agreed to let me live with them ,something truly amazing if you know Japanese mentality ,her family was well travelled and open minded so didn’t mind to host a Gaijin for so long ,I was excited to move to the land of the rising sun ,I grew up watching Japanese cartoons ,anime ,manga and a famous Japanese TV show called Takeshi Castle always made me wondered how Japan would really look like ,now I had the chance to discover it.
Kaori flown first and I would reach her a month later to spend my last few weeks visa left in Australia where I was working in a cafe’ in Perth ,time arrived and almost missed the flight ,I bought only one way ticket cause I didn’t know when I would leave Japan but at the check in they told me I couldn’t boarding ,by Japan’s laws I needed to purchase a return ticket too ,it was too late to go back home trying to find a cheap deal and I had one day visa left ,what to do ? what to do ? I had no choice then to buy a ticket at the airport that I knew would be expensive and damn ,it was extremely expensive ,I didn’t let the episode ruin my excitement for the new adventure ahead ,at finally I got the plane destination Japan.
Arrived to Narita Airport Kaori was awaiting me with a beautiful message ,welcome Alessandro Carosi ,so sweet
we had all day to spend in Tokyo before to get the bus to Joetsu ,as soon we came out this new strange reality hit me strong in the face ,Tokyo is pure madness in the eyes of a foreigner that never been to Asia and a huge metropolis like the Japanese capital ,I never seen so many people and never seen such a busy environment like that ,millions of people elbow against elbow in a space that was obviously not big enough for everyone ,roads was tight ,buildings huge ,shops ,bars ,one on the top of each other for lack of space
I borned in a small seaside village and then moved to Australia where a small population share a huge amount of land so there is a lot of space for everyone ,I was frightened but excited at the same time ,the most amazing thing was that everything was like in the Japanese cartoons ,manga and anime I used to watch when I was a kid ,I recognised some locations ,explained to her about some local customs and traditions ,she was surprised ,how could I know ? it was my first time in Japan ,I told her it was exactly like the cartoons ,anime ,manga I watched and read back home ,she was amazed and I was incredulous about what was in front of me ,we walked through the city ,visited famous monuments ,suburbs ,buildings ,my only reaction was of a pure innocent excitement and surprise for something I thought unreal ,I felt I was witnessing a huge life event.
She showed me the sculpture of the famous Hachiko
Hachikō (ハチ公, November 10, 1923 – March 8, 1935) was a Japanese Akita dog remembered for his remarkable loyalty to his owner, Hidesaburō Ueno (上野 英三郎 Ueno Hidesaburō), for whom he continued to wait for over nine years following Ueno’s death.
Hachikō was born on November 10, 1923 at a farm near the city of Ōdate, Akita Prefecture. In 1924, Hidesaburō Ueno, a professor at the Tokyo Imperial University, brought him to live in Shibuya, Tokyo as his pet. Hachikō would meet Ueno at Shibuya Station every day after his commute home. This continued until May 21, 1925, when Ueno died of a cerebral hemorrhage while at work. From then until his death on March 8, 1935, Hachikō would return to Shibuya Station every day to await Ueno’s return.
During his lifetime, the dog was held up in Japanese culture as an example of loyalty and fidelity. Well after his death, he continues to be remembered in worldwide popular culture, with statues, movies, books, and appearances in various media. Hachikō is known in Japanese as chūken Hachikō (忠犬ハチ公) “faithful dog Hachikō”, hachi meaning “eight” and the suffix -kō indicating affection.
She took me to this wonderful park I can’t remember the name where I got the chance to see this cute Japanese girl dressing a Kimono to celebrate Shichi-Go-San (七五三, lit. “Seven-Five-Three”) is a traditional rite of passage and festival day in Japan for three- and seven-year-old girls and five-year-old (and less commonly three-year-old) boys, held annually on November 15 to celebrate the growth and well-being of young children. As it is not a national holiday, it is generally observed on the nearest weekend.
On the train I realised how tall I was for the average Japanese height and especially in Joetsu where walking around the old town was fun to notice how lower compare to the western people doors ,arches , underpasses was.
I know is silly but one of the best memories was to discover a toy cars race ,in Italy I watched a Japanese cartoons about those toy cars and at the time I was crazy about it ,I bought few of them and even built a race track ,a lot of my friends had it too so we used to have a lot of fun playing it ,I even participated to a race organised in a neighbour town ,now I was in the land that invented it and was so excited ,my girlfriend was impressed ,probably felt pity for a huge guy watching those Japanese kids playing ,I asked her if she could get me to do a race but I needed to buy one of the cars and it would take too long ,sadly I had to leave.
In the evening we met a couple of old friends from the time we lived in Bundaberg working in the farms ,we had a great night eating Japanese food and drinking ,I drunk a bit too much but except doing silly things I didn’t let my Italian heritage going wild shouting and talking loud that wouldn’t be seen well among Japanese that culturally are completely the opposite of us.
The night ended up in the weirdest hotel ever ,at least for an Italian ,my girlfriend wanted me to experience a capsule hotel that literally are cubicles like you would see in an Italian cemetery and does resemble a cemetery with the difference that people sleep inside ,if you are claustrophobic I won’t recommend it
A capsule hotel (Japanese: カプセルホテル, translit.kapuseru hoteru), also known as a pod hotel, is a type of hotel developed in Japan that features a large number of small bed-sized rooms known as capsules. Capsule hotels provide cheap, basic overnight accommodation for guests who do not require or who cannot afford larger, more expensive rooms offered by more conventional hotels.
Cherry on top for the unreal day was when I have been asked to leave the hotel spa cause guests complained about my tattoo ,apparently people with tattoo wasn’t allowed in the hotel and that’s because the local mafia that as symbol of their membership to the criminal organisation has tattoo on both their arms
Yakuza (Japanese: ヤクザ, IPA: [jaꜜkɯza]), also known as gokudō (極道, “the extreme path”, IPA: [gokɯꜜdoː]), are members of transnational organized crime syndicates originating in Japan. The Japanese police, and media by request of the police, call them bōryokudan (暴力団, “violent groups”, IPA: [boːɾʲokɯꜜdaɴ]), while the Yakuza call themselves ninkyō dantai (任侠団体/仁侠団体, “chivalrous organizations“, IPA: [ɲiŋkʲoː dantai]). The Western equivalent for the term Yakuza would be gangster, meaning an individual involved in a Mafia-like criminal organization. The Yakuza are notorious for their strict codes of conduct, their organized fiefdom-nature and for several unconventional ritual practices such as “Yubitsume“. Yakuza members are often described as males with heavily tattooed bodies and slicked hair, yet this group is still regarded as being among “the most sophisticated and wealthiest criminal organizations.”
At their height, the Yakuza maintained a large presence in the Japanese media and operated internationally. In fact, in the early 1960s police estimated that the Yakuza had a membership of 184,100. However, in recent years their numbers have dwindled with the latest figure from the National Police Agency (Japan) estimating that as of 2016 the number of members in all 22 designated gangs was 39,100. This decline is often attributed to changing market opportunities and several legal and social developments in Japan which discourage the growth of Yakuza membership. Yet, despite their dwindling numbers, the Yakuza still regularly engage in an array of criminal activities and many Japanese citizens remain fearful of the threat these individuals pose to the safety of their daily lives.However, there remains no strict prohibition on Yakuza membership in Japan today, although much legislation has been passed by the Japanese government aimed at increasing liability for criminal activities and impeding revenue.
Fortunately my girlfriend was able to explain that I had nothing to do with them and that in western countries tattoo is just fashion ,that allowed me to stay but still I couldn’t use the spa ,I went to sleep happily for a wonderful day I would never forget ,in the morning we got the bus destination Joetsu.