As a new feature on Bradcat’s Baka Blog, I’ll be taking the time to hunt people down who have experienced Japan first hand, from people who have visited, to people that live there. Hopefully this will give me an insight into how people view culture. My first guest is Thom Baker…
Tell us about yourself, who are you, and what do you do?
Hi, my name is Thom Baker, I am an independent graphic designer specialising in branding and typography.
Why did you visit Japan?
I was offered the opportunity to go to Tokyo with Staffordshire University on a cultural visit, which was great! I’ve always had an interest in the visual culture of the Far East, Japan especially – from the calligraphy and landscape paintings and Hokusai woodcuts to the manga, anime and modern graphic design. There’s this aesthetic prowess from Japan that I don’t think you find anywhere else.
Just under a week with traveling. Actual time travel going on there, got in the plane Friday, got out on Sunday after traveling for 12 hours and then got back a couple of hours after we left (I may have exaggerated this slightly).
During your time, what was one thing which stood out the most to you?
The contrasts, between the very old and traditional and the very modern and mad. Near Harajuku one side of the street was crazy, neon lights, big screens cute characters and loads of people and colour. The other side was a massive park with a Shinto shrine and a tea house of the Empress. Both stunning in completely different ways and a two minute walk from each other.
What cultural differences surprised you the most?
The simple respect there seems to be there. There’s no litter anywhere and bikes left unlocked on really busy streets in the middle of the city. It felt extremely safe and relaxed despite how busy everywhere was.
What was your favourite place to visit?
Many places for different reasons. The cat cafe was just bizarre, none of the cats are actually interested in being pet, so to get their attention you buy a little tub of chicken – they’re all you’re friend then! Shibuya junction just blows your mind, there’s just so many people, the Shinto Shrine, the themed restaurants. They were all great but some of my favourite places were just being there, on a normal street, with people going about their daily lives. I’ve always wanted to see a tea ceremony too, just the thought and care taken in every act is beautiful, to see and take part in that was wonderful. I haven’t really answered your question! Tokyo was my favourite place when I visited Tokyo – does that count?
What was the best thing you ate or drank during your time there?
All the food was great. Two things really stood out.
We went to one of the older parts of Tokyo where it was more residential, really had a Bladerunner look about it with narrow streets and filled with neon signs and stuff. We went into a proper noodle bar which was full of locals – had some absolutely brilliant noodles, everyone was really helpful, with the staff and locals helping us order and explaining what things were.
Another one was a Bento box in this massive market, it had sushimi and miso and tempura. Really good stuff!
Would you go back, and why?
I would definitely go back! It would be great to live and work there for a bit, properly experience life there. It’s such a vibrant and colourful culture – but as I said, theres a quiet respectfulness that runs through everything. It truly is a beautiful place! I love Tokyo!
More guests on Bradcat’s Baka Blog soon…