What’s in a Golden Week

Last week was Golden Week: a string of bank holidays eagerly awaited by every last Japanese salaryman. Four or five days usually spent busy sitting in massive traffic jams in order to reach one of Japan’s perennial vacationing spots, presumably amidst a few million other people intent on same.

Yes, it doesn’t take a genius to realise that you are better off staying at home during Golden Week and wait until pretty much any of the remaining 51 weeks in the year to take your vacation at half the price and half the crowds.

Unfortunately, things being what they are (and my days off being what they are), Golden Week vacation or no vacation, were my only options.

After securing two extra days to make it an actual week (Golden it may be, but that “week” ends on a Wednesday night), I took a rest from the deadly boring lovely Kansai countryside and headed back for my hometown: Tokyo.

Although I would have been just happy sharing my time between sitting on the grass in Yoyogi and drinking under the bar in Shinjuku, relationship diplomacy dictated that a compromise be found with the traditional holiday activities and a 2-day trip to nearby Choshi was on the program. Considering its proximity to Tokyo (about 2h by train from Tokyo station), Choshi peninsula is a pleasant enough destination for a weekend, provided you do not stay anywhere close to the main city (your usual ugly mix of generic concrete jungle and urban decay that make 99.9% of all Japanese cities in rural areas) and head out for the smaller villages along the coast. Although the sea still wasn’t warm enough for bathing, we kept busy with a couple walks around the coast (cue obligatory lighthouse, seaside temples etc.) as well as inland crossing through countless patches of cabbage (a local specialty, apparently). Among the locales accessed through the picturesque Choshi Dentetsu railway line, Choshi boasts of Inubō, a station whose name literrally means “Woof” (or, in a less vivid translation, “Dog’s Bark”).

Most of Wednesday and Thursday were spent watching rain pouring outside, safely tucked under a warm comforter, only getting up to make a batch of soba crêpes (Galettes, for our friends in Brittany)…

Saturday was Sunset Freedom party in Enoshima and, as expected, was awesome beyond words: sun, blue skies and a small island covered in green… is just what you want as a backdrop to your soulful house beats and live house performances.
It didn’t hurt either that the last set closed to Frankie Knuckles’ ever awesome Whistle Song: an underground classic you would have to be dead not to dance along to. The encore song was an hommage to recently passed away Japanese singer Kiyoshiro Imawano: his famous cover of Daydream Believer, which took a sad undertone in that context. Discussing with friends then made me realise how universally loved Iwamano was: across the entire spectrum of age, fashion and music tastes, everybody seemed deeply touched by his death, despite his relative obscurity from mainstream media and modern pop music…

Sunday was another lovely day in Tokyo and perhaps one of the first truly hot day of the year (meaning warm evening too). We spent the afternoon strolling around Omotessando and Harajuku. Hitting Design Festa gallery along the way, we caught Venom Palette‘s exhibit there. You should go check him out before the end of the week: he does cool stuff.
Weeklong holidays were capped by outdoor drinks and nachos at Las Chicas, which definitely doesn’t feel anywhere near as nice as it used to be (talking many years ago, before the whole block was remodelled) but is unfortunately one of the very few places in Tokyo where one can eat and drink while enjoying the evening’s warm breeze (a cookie to anybody with an original recommendation for good outdoor places in Tokyo or Kyoto that isn’t part of the usual bunch).

In other news, I am now back to my peaceful Kyoto countryside, busy working making breakthrough in bioinformatics (following Jon Stewart’s wise advice, I am going directly for the next big thing and focussing on Tanuki Flu)…

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