Hey y’all citizens of the internet. No big intro this time- I’m of a sunny disposition this week, so I figured I’d write a bit about what makes me happy in Hiroshima, and more broadly in Japan.
However, I don’t want to crank out some tedious objective analysis of the pros of life over here, so instead I thought I’d focus unsystematically on a few of the perks of life in this corner of the world.
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Cities in lights– neon snares me so easily, like a cat entranced by a thousand laser pointers. As I’ve said before, the visual appeal of cities is a mixed bag in daytime, but at night the city centre is a dizzying panorama of light. Not just neon, but lanterns and screens too, bursting with sensory overload, filling your brain with product placements and lies, no doubt, but fuck it. Sure, I’m a lost child of late capitalism. Embrace what you are.
Shiny happy people– flying back into London this Christmas gave me immediate reverse culture shock for two main reasons. Firstly, compared to the pristine streets of Hiroshima, London is pretty dirty- but actually, I don’t mind that. Sometimes cleanliness is next to sterility. No, my sudden shock was realising how much people in Japan smile in daily life! By comparison, it feels like nobody in London smiles (one person was reported to have smiled in Gatwick Airport once, in 1987, but it was later revealed to have been a hoax). I appreciate that some people might have arch words about Japanese social pressures, but I do think there’s a genuine desire to make people feel comfortable and happy which I find really heartwarming.
Don Quixote– to call it an arcade is to barely scratch the surface. What the fuck is Don Quixote? Damned if I know. It has claw machines and basketball hoops and games tables, sure, and thousands of robot figurines, and drones and discount biscuits and fishing tackle and an eccentric collection of parkas and t-shirts, but the deeper you venture into the endless basement of the arcade/gambling parlour/thrift store, the weirder it gets. It’s deliberately mazelike; few shops can go to so much effort to trap customers. I’ve heard the one in Tokyo has a rollercoaster inside it.
Seasonal cycles– I love how much Japanese people care about the changing of the seasons. It’s not just clothes that change with the passing seasons, but décor, menus, supermarket snacks… people get so excited about the cherry blossom and the changing of the leaves. In Hiroshima itself, my favourite spot to observe seasons’ change is the Yuhua Friendship Garden, a lovely, tiny, quiet place where nobody seems to go but me.
Political apathy– alright, so this is an objectively bad thing, but I mean, I post enough grouchy commentary about Brexit when I’m 9,420km from London. Can you imagine how relentless I’d be if it was in every twatting sentence on the news? Someday Japan needs to wake up to its changing social structures and labour crisis, but please let it sleep a little while longer. It’s been blissful.
Inner worlds– perhaps because so much of the world outside is a concrete jungle, many ordinary shops and cafés will pour immense energy into interior design. I love this café*, for example, and this soy sauce shop in Miyajima.
Two weeks of sunshine in January– despite our Mediterranean latitude, winter is cold, particularly at night where it hovers just above zero**. But it’s hard to feel down when day after day of sunshine souses the mountains in a warm glow, and makes the sea shine. #Lifeismyinstagramfilter #Pleasedonthitme
Hot coffee in vending machines– I will never get tired of this.
Salon Cinema– another of my favourite spots in the city, this eigakan is tucked away on the eighth floor of Tokyu Hands. I love it partly because it shows decent English language movies, and partly because its movie mural includes an homage to Rocky Horror Picture show. It’s more comfortable than any British cinema I’ve been to, so much so that I barely fidget.
Stone lanterns– endless forms from the same basic design. I love to spot them when I’m out and about.
Till next time, with a von Trapp flourish,
From your correspondent in Hiroshima.
* I think it’s on Rijō-dori, near the Naka-ku Ward Office, if you’re looking. I can’t remember its name.
** Celsius, not Fahrenheit. What even is that thing? Who are you?