Reassuringly, Osaka International Airport is a lot like other international airports.
I was surprised at how nervous I was before my trip; I made the mistake of telling my friends about it in advance, which meant several months of well-intentioned but nonetheless overwhelming advice. (This took the usual form: a combination of personal experience, second-hand anecdotes, Internet fragments, pop culture references and — my personal favourite — blind conjecture.) The most common theme was the potential culture shock, but everything in the airport is soothingly familiar. There are the usual signs for toilets/immigration/baggage claim/exits, with helpful logos and English translations. There’s the obligatory duty-free boutique, whose classy wares are completely inappropriate for how disgusting and post-flighty everyone feels. And there’s the interior design: clinical, bright, spacious. I wonder if these consistencies are deliberate, to stop people from just freaking out and screaming whenever they land somewhere new.
I like to pretend that I’m a grand adventurer. If someone asks, or — more likely — if I feel like just mentioning it anyway1, I’ll claim that my favourite poem is Ulysses by Tennyson. This, I’ll go on to suggest, is because of its inspiring themes of exploration, taking risks and never settling for the way things are: to strive, to seek, to find. This is usually enough to kill the conversation, which is good, because even the smallest further enquiry would reveal that it’s actually the only poem I’m even vaguely familiar with, and that’s only because it featured in the last episode of Frasier.
Similarly, the name of this blog comes from a line in a song in Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, where our protagonist Belle expresses her weariness at living in a small village in France.2 Specifically, she runs through a picturesque, autumnal field, singing to a crescendoing, recently-key-changed score: ‘I want adventure in the great wide somewhere!’ However, even this is a sham. This blog, and indeed I, are not worthy of such a title. I spent the last three and a half years living in Edinburgh, and the previous version of this blog included write-ups of trips to Mull and Glasgow. That’s just 150 miles and 50 miles respectively, which isn’t even enough for a Proclaimers song. But then, late last year, fate presented me with an opportunity: a conference in Kyoto, Japan.
Here are twenty-two short stories about that trip.
Episode 01: Arrival