This time I'll be starting off in Kagoshima in the very south of Kyushu (this was the view from there three weeks ago - gulp!), then working my up through Fukuoka, Osaka (with a side trip to Okoyama), Kyoto and Tokyo. According to the latest cherry blossom forecast I'll be a day or two ahead of the sakura tide for most of my trip, heralding its coming like some kind of shinkansen-riding Paul Revere - with perhaps just a touch of John the Baptist.
Unlike last year, when I met not a soul I knew through the whole trip, this time I'm meeting up with several of the friends I've since made on italki.com. In Kagoshima I'll be staying in a ryokan with my lovely okashi-swapping chum, Chiho. My diversion to Okoyama is to see Hana; I hope if possible to catch sight of Fumie when in Kyoto, and have a karaoke date with Tomoko in Tokyo. I'm not sure all these things will happen, but I'm hoping. I'm also keen to see Tsukuji Market before it moves in the autumn, but that means getting up early so I'll no doubt be on my own for it.
Also while in Tokyo, I mean to meet up with Satomi Isobe, whom I met at the IRSCL in Worcester last year. We bonded when I helped her get through to British rail to complain about a machine that had mistakenly charged her twice for a ticket. She's a student of British fantasy fiction as well, though, and has asked if I can meet her professor when I'm in Tokyo. Naturally, I said I'd be delighted.
By way of preparation, I've been reading said professor's book. She is Mihoko Tanaka, and her title is Aspects of the Translation and Reception of British Children's Fantasy Literature in Postwar Japan (with special reference to The Borrowers and Tom's Midnight Garden). I've no idea whether such a book could ever have a large readership, but however small it may be I think I must be right in the middle of it. It's utterly fascinating (and very well done, by the way). I had very little idea of how the nascent concept and genre of fantasy literature had influenced and been modified by its interaction with Japanese culture, where no such native tradition existed. I had little notion of why certain books proved popular in Japan but fell by the wayside in the UK, while sometimes the reverse happened: Alan Garner is tied to the land in too specific a way, it seems, to transfer easily; while Joan Robinson's beautiful When Marnie Was There did very well in the post-Tom Japanese timeslip boom, but was almost forgotten at home. (I was very surprised, and pleased, when the latter turned out to be Ghibli's last film, having met few British people who had ever read it.) Of course, with my language learner's hat on I also find great interest in Tanaka's more technical discussions of translation.
So, this trip is already proving fruitful, and I've yet to leave Bristol!