While preparing for my second trip to Japan, I got into the habit of tracing along some of the routes that I would be walking on Google Streetview, as a method of managing my excitement/anticipation that was so intense it made me dissociate. I later decided that these would make a cool video, and recorded a couple of them. During one of these walks I was going just above the river between these two shrines as part of the pilgrimage route there, and came across this vending machine on a corner. I thought that it would make a cool end shot to have my character walk up to vending machine and get a drink after all that walking, so I stopped my recording there and drew the animation later. A month after in real life when walking through the streets of Chichibu, I came across this vending machine and felt compelled to spend time there as if it was a power spot or an entrance or a place of general narrative significance, part of the pilgrimage route I was taking. I remember being disappointed that it didn’t have any of my favourite drinks (peach juice or grape fanta), but I got something anyway (grapefruit juice) that I theatrically sipped sitting on the road, the setting sun casting a yellow light on this scene of completely fabricated significance.
“As Barbara Hardy (1975) has observed, we could hardly live
without telling stories, both to others and to ourselves. We
wake to fragments of dream-stories, we go to sleep after
retelling much of the day to ourselves, and at various points
in between we are engaged in processes of recounting and telling,
to ourselves and to others, what has passed and what we hope will
pass. We endlessly tell stories about our lives, both to ourselves
and to others; and it is through such stories that we make sense
of the world, of our relationship to that world and of the
relationship between ourselves and other selves: ‘The stories of
our days and the stories in our days are joined in that
autobiography we are all engaged in making and remaking, as long
as we live, which we never complete, though we all know how it
is going to end’ (Hardy, 1975: 4).”
(Steph Lawler: Identity)
Before my early afternoon flight back to Tokyo, I went out for a walk in Kagoshima city. I went to a temple where I witnessed a priest blessing someone’s car. In Tokyo I just went and got curry in Tokyo Station, looked around the character goods shops, then met up with Máté to get my luggage back, too tired for anything else.
After eating taiyaki for breakfast in Asakusa again (green tea and anko + chestnut fillings this time), I took the metro to Chofu, a suburb quite far out in West-Tokyo. I’ve been there before on my last trip, but I had such a dreamy day there that I wanted to visit again, in an attempt to relive the exact same filler episode-esque situation. I didn’t go to the onsen this time, but did walk almost the same route to Jinda-Ji temple. This was the first time during my trip that I got an outstanding sense of „ah yes I have been here before”. I’m not sure if this happaned because I went to Chofu on one of my last days last time, thus making it more memorable, or because of the tranquil nature of Chofu itself it felt more dreamlike, and therefore easier to connect to than reality, making my memories more vivid. I thought a lot about fictionalising in real time. When I was taking photos, I took them with the awareness of how and when I would use them as backdrops for my animations, where I’d have my character move, how the camera would pan, how I’d compose a scene. I thought of this cinematic layering everytime I looked through the viewfinder, but also when I was just looking and exploring. I was always looking for potential shots, thus always walking around with awareness of my real self and body in a place, but also thinking of my virtual self and how she could explore and be perceived in that same place, from which possible camera angle. Constant awareness of this means that you’re looking and therefore visiting, not accessing directly. It’s secondhand immersion – you’re not, but your persona is immersed.
At Jinda-Ji temple I really wanted to buy a tanuki figurine, but they were quite expensive, so I left it for next time. I’m a huge fan of tanuki, I think they look ridiculous, and really hope that one day I’ll have one outside my house. They’re meant to protect against fire and theft. I read in my guidebook that there were real tanuki living on Yakushima, and was hoping to see one in the forest, but of course I didn’t, and even the guidebook mentioned that tanuki sightings were rare. One day, hopefully.
Outside Jinda-Ji, there’s a strip of homemade soba restaurants, where I had tempura vegetables and cold soba noodles. Apparently back in the day the local people used to donate buckwheat to the priests at Jinda-Ji, who made soba noodles out of it and shared them with the locals as thank you, hence the numerous soba places. In one of the store windows, I saw a man cut the thin noodle strips.
From the temple I took a bus to a more convenient metro line, which was a bit scary but also made me feel like a local instead of a tourist. (Which I still was.) But I guess it’s harder to connect to the fictionalised, mundane Tokyo that exists on a different plane of reality accessible to me when I’m so explicitly just visiting, but on the bus I could acces feelings of appreciation for daily life and commuting, which of course my real person has nothing to do with.
I took the metro to Shimo-Kitazawa, where I went in a bunch of vintage shops, and managed to buy a strange skirt with fish and planets on it for only 700 yen. I felt a bit strange, because I didn’t seem to remember this neighbourhood as clearly as a I did Chofu, and only recognised a rail crossing because I remembered seeing it on one of my photos. It also seemed to me that the area was more hip and innaccessible than last time, no doubt due to it being an ’’’alternative’’’ neighbourhood now surely in the grip of gentrification. Afterwards I decided to skip the metro to Shibuya, and walked along the rail tracks instead, feeling really quite disconnected and pondering on romanticised journeys, being a quirky protagonist, what I wanted for dinner. Suburban Tokyo is the best Tokyo for sure. I stopped in an arcade on my way, and wasted 400 yen trying to win a Totoro lunchbox from a claw machine, but sadly didn’t manage. I feel quite tragic about this now, because the Totoro lunchbox I bought last time broke a few days after I returned from this second trip, and I’m still bitter about not having bought a second lunchbox. The hardships of life.
My clothes didn’t dry. I considered staying in my pajamas, but decided against it. Since Kagoshima prefecture is quite tropical, the air was really warm and humid despite it being only April, so the whole wet jeans and shoes ordeal wasn’t as traumatising as I thought it would be. I got up at 6 am and walked to the port, where I managed to buy all my ferry tickets in advance. I even got 10% off the price because I’m doing a three point round trip. Technically what I got wasn’t a ferry, but a jetfoil, which is a high speed boat much quicker than the ferry. Also more expensive, but the ferry wasn’t running that week, and I managed to fit the price difference into my scholarship budget fine. I took the jetfoil from Kagoshima port to Miyanoura port on Yakushima island. (Technically ’shima’ means island, so I’m saying island island here.)
I think this is the first time I’ve been on an actual small island. Yakushima is fairly round and there’s a road going along the side of it, a circumference that is cycleable in a day and apparently takes about two hours in a car to go around it. The island has around 15.000 residents, and is well-known for its green mountains and acient yakusugi (cedar) trees. It’s not touristy in the sense that Tokyo or Kyoto are touristy, but it is a well-known hiking location. I was there in the off season, so I can’t really comment on how busy it can actually get, but I got a sense of life beyond tourism there, and it didn’t feel like a fabricated experience. Definitely not a hub for Western tourism. It was really intrigueing that all the Westerners I met there were of the „I’ve been travelling for two years” kind, whereas in Tokyo the prominent tourist-type is short-term. I also felt very young, as all the people I met were in their early to mid thirties, which I guess makes sense, considering that not many can afford to travel for a long period of time in their early twenties.
Yakushima is the greenest, most beautiful place I’ve ever been. It was kind of ridiculous how you could walk around in this mundane small-town setting and have these huge mountains covered in greenery casually looming in the background whereever you looked. It really felt like an insular and introspective place with the tranquil atmosphere, slow pace of life (last bus leaves at 5 pm), otherworldly beauty and of course the explicit method of entering by boat via a port. In my every movement there I had a sense of fiction, a parallel reality in that life on the island felt secluded and self-contained not only physically, but on a narrative level as well. A sort of borderland that’s explicit in its distance, but also in its circular nature. Not necessarily a place of still time, but a timeline that will continue to fold and fold back on itself instead of progressing in a linear fashion. I think this is a combination of the old trees, the quiet island atmosphere and narrative tropes of journeys by sea.
After the jetfoil I bought sushi in a supermarket and ate it by the riverside. I did a little underwhelming drawing of the river, and dried my socks and shoes in the sun. I spent the day exploring Miyanoura, hitting up all the small shrines that I could find on the map. It was quite interesting because I have read before that Kagoshima prefecture is the one with the least amount of shrines in Japan, so I found it intriguing that there was still a strong sense of spirituality in the place, but one that is more connected to nature and timelessness. At a shrine by the seaside I chatted to a few small Japanese children, who found my pink hair very exciting. I have also found an interesting construction by the bit where you wash your hands before entering shrine area – a small wooden tube propped up like a seesaw that the water was trickling into, tipping when it got full, hitting a small rock to make a sound, then going back up after the water poured out. I learned later that this is to scare deer and other wild animals away.
From the jetfoil windows, I saw a flying fish above the sea.
I woke up early to get the morning bus to the Shiratani Usuikyo trail head, to go hiking in the mountains. This trail leads through the Shiratani Ravine, which is home to an incredible moss-covered forest that the forest in Studio Ghibli’s Princess Mononoke is modelled off. I’ve never really been hiking on my own, so I was a bit nervous, but I do have strong legs and I bought a guidebook online before my trip that talked in depth about the mountain trails and how difficult the terrain might be, so at least I was prepared. (I got the guidebook from yakumonkey.com, an incredibly useful website + book if you want to visit Yakushima.) I wore one of my new pairs of socks, and it really satisfied me that the patterns matched the colour of my T-shirt (blue) and hiking shoes (purple). As it turned out, I love hiking! I would describe how incredible the forests were, but I don’t think I could do it justice. The trail starts with a sort of loop and then straight up to the lookout at Taiko-Iwa rock – I climbed up the left way, then came down the right way, through Shiratani Ravine. I think I’d recommend this method, because the other way around you’d have to climb uphill more through the ravine, leaving you with less energy to for the last stretch before Taiko-Iwa rock, which I found really tough. I had to hold onto trees and pull myself up in some bits, it was so steep and woven with roots. On my way down, I met some really chill deer in the forest, and an older woman shared her dried mangos with me. Waiting for the bus down from the trailhead, there were wild monkeys playing in the bus stop.
On the bus down, I befriended some of the other foreign people, and back in Miyanoura we quickly bought some beer and hopped on a different bus to the town of Isso, and sat and drank the beer on the sandy beach. It was empty and peaceful. Towards the end of our time there, I noticed a little cave in the side of hills framing the beach, with a red torii gate at the entrance. I wanted to walk there, but it was nearing 5 pm when the last bus back to Miyanoura was leaving. I wouldn’t have walked back in time, and it would have taken 2-3 hours to walk back to Miyanoura. Later I discovered an entry in my guidebook about Isso beach, where it mentioned this shrine in a cave on the beach. According to a local story, a cat got lost once in that cave shrine chasing a mouse, only to later turn up at a shrine on the nearby Tanegashima island. Shrine portals!
At the hostel I washed and dryed all my clothes, and had a bath. In Japanese homes it’s quite common to have a bath everyday, but the way they go about it is that they shower first, and once they’re clean they go relax in the bathtub, the family sharing the same (clean) bathwater. I think it’s quite common too to have a bathtub that has a function of keeping the water at a certain temperature after it’s been filled. The hostel had the same system – all hostels should have this! It was incredible. My knees really hurt after hiking, but this helped.
Excerpt from The Girl at the End of Time: Temporality, (P)remediation, and Narrative Freedom inPuella Magi Madoka Magica (pp. 195-207), Forrest Greenwood, in Mechademia 10: World Renewal, University of Minnesota Press, ed. Frenchy Lunning
This flies in the face of Juul’s and Rau’s notion of saved games, with Juul treating saves, at best, a necessarily evil allowing players to hone their skills. Rau similarly conceptualises the save-game system as an iterative „learning process”. In this view, the temporal path cjarted through save game, as Juul puts it, „yields a giant tree with numerous forks (the save games), numerous dead ends, and only one path through”. Rathen than a teleological progression toward an ultimate narrative end, novel-game play involves free-roaming exploration through the temporal architecture formed by the game’s branching narrative structure. Players are free to recurse, jump forward, and otherwise play within the game’s chronology.
Ability to go back but ultimately having to go forward to unlock new possibilites – you can load saves from the past, but you cannot revisit past moments that you haven’t experienced yet. Progress is only possible in a linear fashion from points in time, but once it has been discovered, a time point takes on a circular quality and is infinitely revisitable and explorable.
In this manner, the nove game formally embodies Paul Youngquist’s notion of fungibility. Using the practice of futures trading as ametaphor, Youngquist argues that works of speculative science fiction posit visions of the future different from those found in works that „practice the future in the manner of a hedger, along the line of minimum risk and maximum predictability”. The futures found in speculative fiction, by contrast, „are recursive loops of variable return”. Speculation forms a temporal flow, in which the present informs the future, which returns to inform the present, which then proceeds to inform additional futures. „A fiction that exploits this fungibility,” writes Youngquist, „would flow too, from now into the future, from the future back to now. It would be the fiction of time travel, a speculative fiction of anticipation and return.” Anticipation and return in relation to the monomyth ideas?? A monomyth that’s encyclopedic/an anthology – a monogatari?? Altough here Youngquist relates the notions of speculation and fungibility to the thematics of science fiction, this reading applies equally well to the formal ludic structures of novel games.
The novel-game player is a time traveler par excellence, deploying knowledge of potential narrative futures to return to the past and navigate toward alternative futures. Past practice – the player’s breadcrumb trail of save games – reflects both speculation about the future and an atemporal knowledge of events to come. Revisiting a save game, the player knows what option not to choose but also recognises that the future opened by one option is equally valid relative to the future opened by another option. The player resides in a hypermediated present, perpetually oscillating between narrative future and narrative past, aware that every juncture represents not a defining plot point on the way to some predictable, teleological terminus but one possibility in a constellation of choices. Play time may proceed in an orderly, straightforwardly chronological manner – the clock on Kirino’s wall clicks steadily forward as she navigates the time map of her chosen game – but event time proves wildly discontinous, fungible in the extreme.
I find it endlessly funny that such great ideas could have come to this writer while referencing an anime as trash as Oreimo