Home again…

Just returned from a whirlwind whistle-stop tour of Japan, following the World Science Fiction Convention which was in Yokohama this year. There were plenty of factors which went into my decision to go to the event – lots of my friends and colleagues whom I would otherwise have been sure of seeing in the hallways of the convention bowed out because of time and/or budgetary constraints – it is a long way to go, and Japan is notoriously not cheap to visit. But I decided to trade in lots of air miles and travel business class – which made the long trip considerably more bearable – and I simply bit the bullet on the rest and figured this was a chance to go and see a new country, a new culture, to broaden my horizons both literally and figuratively, to get inspired, to learn something new, to test my boundaries.

I cannot tell you all how glad I am that I went.

I walked on a real Nightingale Floor a few days ago. I saw cranes in the midst of manicured Japanese gardens, making everything look like a silk painting by some vanished artist of long ago. I heard temple bells ringing, and I saw huge bright butterflies the size of small birds, and I giggled at inadvertently comical signage and marvelled at the displayed plastic replicas of food offered inside Japanese restaurants (some places have picture menus; Japanese restaurants have glass display cabinets with plastic pizza, or salad, or things I dare not ask about. It’s riveting). I browsed markets selling food I had never seen before and could not identify. I gazed upon fully-accoutered geishas mincing carefully down a narrow street in Kyoto. I took a fortune paper at a Buddhist temple and it told me that all my ventures would be propitious “if I was honest”. I drank weird stuff out of vending machines tucked under the eaves of pagodas five hundred years old. I even survived a typhoon.

I’m still under the influence of it all, thinking about it, dreaming about it, wondering what it will find to connect with in my mind – but all I do know at this point is that somewhere in Kyoto, surrounded by unfamiliar and the strange and with every sense assaulted by a thousand new impressions at once, I fell in love with this odd, wonderful, ancient country full of polite and beautiful people and rich with a heritage that is a treasure beyond price. I will return to my more regular blogging topics anon, but for now… my body is back home in the Pacific Northwest but my mind and my spirit are still back there somewhere, staring at the clouds wreathing Mt Fuji, bowing politely to strangers as they hand me something I had barely had time to think about asking for, eating meals prepared like works of art.

Aregato, Japan. Some day, I will return.

(Oh, and for those who want more details of the actual trip, I blogged pretty much every day while I was away back at my other blog, here. Just look for the “Japan travel” tag.)

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Author Information

Alma Alexander

Alma Alexander is a novelist, short story writer and anthologist whose books include High Fantasy ("Hidden Quen""Changer of Days"), historical fantasy ("Secrets of Jin Shei", "Embers of Heaven"), contemporary fantasy ("Midnight at Spanish gardens") and YA (the Worldweavers series, the Were Chronicles). She lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband and two cats. Visit site.

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