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Last Post - Japan

Written on: Sunday December 2nd, 2012

A journal entry from: November 2011 until...

Back in Japan yet again, for the last stop on this trip.

A few people have asked for my highlights of the last year. Difficult. But instead of posting from the places I visit around Japan, this time I'll just post some highlights of the entire trip here and some recent photos below.

People: People are what travelling is all about. I spent time with so many generous friends, couchsurfing hosts and people who I just bumped into. I won't single anyone out, but I am grateful to all. Something in particular that will stay with me forever is the unbelievable strength of the people who live in Minamisanriku.

Which leads on to...

Nature: I have been lucky enough to see so many beautiful and awe inspiring places. But Iceland stands out. And in Iceland, the sheer frightening majesty of thousands of tonnes of ice breaking off from a glacier into a lake at Skaftafell national park... Wow! But how to compare that with observing the transit of Venus in the middle of the Gobi Desert? Well you can't. 

Food: Food, food food! It is difficult to narrow down a few favourites, but Korea and Spain/Portugal battled it out for the variety and consistency of breathtakingly great grub. I was in Korea for longer than Iberia, and it kept smacking me in the face with scrumptiousness. And it was cheaper, so I give this gong to Korea. The best meals were cooked by and shared with the people I met and stayed with, but restaurant meals that I won't foget in a hurry include:

Hitchhiking: Overall, hitching on this trip was fantastic. Every ride was friendly. Language was never a problem (despite, frequently not having a common one). The longest wait was 2 hours or so in a German parking area on the autobahn, the shortest was on Jeju Island in Korea where I didn't even get the chance to stick my thumb out. I'd guess 10 - 15 minutes was a typical wait, but that was often because I was hitching in places where you had to wait that long for a car to come along. 

  • Best country - Armenia, where I changed my itinerary because it was so easy to hitch places. It was common that the first car stopped. People were really interested in who I was, and sometimes they even fed me up (Boris the Russian for example).
  • Best single trip - well I thought it would be the Georgian family that said they could only take me 5km and ended up taking me to their parents'/grandparents' place for 24 hours of eating, drinking and being merry. But then Patryk stopped in Iceland. Two gold medals then.
  • And what about a passing calligraphy master taking pity on my poorly written hitchhiking sign and offering to write me a new one (over lunch and a chat) in Sendai.

Music (Live):

Music (not live): Songs that have made it onto the soundtrack of this trip include Amanaemonesia by Chairlift, Relention by Katatonia, Autre Temps by Alcest and Contact the Spirits by Kaito (especially after 56 mins on this). And thanks to Patryk again - Kinski Assassin by Ariel Pink and So Vulgar by GRABEK, for which Patryk made the fantastic video.

 Other art:

  • The First Kiev International Biennale of Contemporary Art. I don't think I have ever enjoyed an art exhibition more. I did not want to leave.
  • Sato Churyo's sculptures at the Miyagi Museum of Art were fab. No photos allowed, but here is the museum's website.
  • dOCUMENTA 13 in Kassel, Germany for its size and complexity deserves a mention. Overall I enjoyed it, but was a bit bewildered at times. I thought the exhibit involving personal video devices and walking around the train station was super.  
Boats/ferries: A feature of this trip was the number of ferries that I took. About 20 altogether I think. highlights included:
 

Other unexpected pleasures.

  • Breaking an axle in the Gobi Desert - perhaps one of the most isolated places on earth. Finding a family living in a ger, their hospitality and the ingenuity of Rocksha (our driver) and a 'neighbour' (who lived about 20 km away) to get us up and going again.
  • Xanaliq. I had an image in my head about what Azerbaijan would be like. Baku was close. Xanaliq wasn't!
  • Transnistria. Old style communisim in an unofficial state.

Sport: Didn't see too much, but the quality was fab. Messi making a mess of Neymar and Co and Pirlo's pearl of a penalty were both great. But Sweden coming back from 4-0 down away to Germany..! 

Feel free to contact me at liam(dot)goat(at)gmail(dot)com