JAPAN 2014 Study tour - notes made on first day of arriving back in Bergen

Eleven hours on plane from Copenhagen - over Siberia - occasional settlements lit up in the snow smattered landscape

First impression from the air - rigid geometrical field structure broken by the edge of rising land, the biggest golf courses I have ever seen

Travelling by train - super fast trains, slow local trains, near vertical trains and overnight ones. Always on time, connections smooth, embarking ordered, no mobile phone conversations, eating of lunch boxes bought in the stations, everyone asleep

Rural places off the beaten track, language difficult, communication no problem, heartwarming meetings, being given baked potatoes by farmers when trying to find our way, circling island roads by bike, art interventions and concrete architecture contrasting the wooden and paper constructions of domestic dwellings, blue tin roofs, I call it 'Japanese blue', blue tarpaulins contrasting with the bamboo weeds - keeping the countryside neat and creating compost, blue buckets, blue mesh fencing, blue and orange

Clash between urban sprawl and vegetable plots in every gap, fresh seasonal food, from cheapest street cafes to the most exquisite dinners, grasshoppers fried

Muted city colours broken by neon - overhead wiring disturbing, clean air, calmness among the masses, discovering alleys among the high rises, colour among the grey

Another culture, another time, staying in an original house, not changed for 65 years, low level window in toilet, shadows and rays of sunlight hitting paper walls, fluorescent lighting blinding, sitting low, lying low, different perspectives, eating with wooden implements, no metal in mouth for one month, hundreds of dishes for serving meals, artworks of food, delicately positioned

Museums by the hundreds, historical ones, contemporary art and architecture, over museumed by the end, contrast and correlation between old and new, discovering old books in travelling boxes, wooden boxes for inks and stamps, stamp shops, signatures by stamping your name, rubber stamps, wooden and stone ones

Not understanding why bottles of water are left filled and strategically placed, or why trees have silver tape wound around them, learning about graveyards and customs, things falling into place, the light of the setting sun, layers of mountain greys, volcanoes smoking, memorials for boat routes replaced by tunnels, temple flea markets, beware of the bears, dutch tourists obsessed by monkeys, squid from tank to plate in two seconds

endless new impressions

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