Wednesday, 26 October 2011
Aside #12: Most Memorable Moments in Japan
Japanese Bento cooking and Japan, yes ....
Every time I browse some of the websites, or open up the Let's Bento cookbook, or eat a Bento Box with chopsticks, my memories of Japan return fondly to the years 1997 to 2000ish. It was in those years that I had the opportunity to travel to Japan a few times (Kyoto, Tokyo, and a small town in the mountains) where I had the time of my life, both professionally and personally. As well, it was the first time travelling overseas!
In fact, anxiety attacks plagued me in my 20s when I first started travelling. Flying was the worst. I set forth on my own to do a Vancouver-Ottawa plane-train-bus trek across the country. Time-honoured youth hostel style. But, on the flight from Toronto to Vancouver, I had a major anxiety attack and demanded that the pilot put the plane down immediately (and the fact that the plane was over the Rockies didn't deter me AT ALL). On the same tour, I demanded to be let off the train headed for Calgary (again in the Rockies). Once in Calgary, I tried to do Banff by bus... same reaction. So, I gave up and flew home. But I kept trying for the next few years. I made it to Mexico City for a UN meeting on population growth but had a major anxiety attack one evening and left the next morning on the first plane home. I did the same thing at a UN Women's Conference in Chicago. Sadly, I've even cut holidays short.
But, as I aged, found good anti-anxiety travel drugs, and became fitness buff-y, the anxiety faded to a manageable level. I was able to travel on planes, trains and, yes, automobiles (!) for work purposes. I managed a whistle-stop tour of 27 cities handling communications at Public Hearings for a Royal Commission and for various Advisory Council media tours when there were major research launches. Fed-prov meetings were manageable. I gradually forgot about my earlier issues with anxiety.
Kyoto and Tokyo, BIG GrEAT travel...
But domestic travel is one thing. I've never been keen on across-the-ocean type travel. Continental tours of Britain, Europe and elsewhere were never high on my 'must-do' or even 'might-do' lists... plane, train, cruise ship or whatever... something about confined spaces or out of my comfort zone or whatever.
But, in 1997, a work opportunity arose to go to Kyoto, Japan, for an international conference on climate change. Kyoto Protocol, perchance... 12-16 hours of travel each way were involved but I simply could not say NO. In fact, I travelled to Japan twice over a two-year period and once to Buenos Aires in Argentina. All occurred without drugs or having to admit my anxiety-prone youth experiences. All I need on a plane is distraction. I don't sleep. I sip nervously during turbulence... water in my alcohol-less days; scotch if not. A laptop or TV also works like a charm to keep me calm.
But Japan was worth fighting against myself and my travel-related hesitancies. There are priceless moments and memories and I will relate the top four.