The familiar and nostalgic ‘bee-bee-beep’ sound of a new message on MSN Messenger… As a 25 year old Briton, that was the first foray into the world of connected social media for many of us, and it’s getting more and more difficult by the day to remember such innocent times.
Now of course, Facebook, twitter, instagram, wordpress (…ahem) vines and snapchat have turned people of a certain age into members of one of two camps, we’re either content creators or content digestors. There’s simply no such thing as someone ‘not on social media.’
I was a digestor. I would uncomfortably sit, often with a scorn of judgement and distaste, scrolling endlessly though a news feed of beautiful people doing exciting things, eating exciting food and snogging exciting counterparts. My feelings probably should have been elation at how glorious their lives were, proud to be part of the same species as these perfect specimens. But, inevitably, British pessimism took over and utter hate-filled jealousy and disgust ran through my veins. I’m quite sure I wasn’t alone in this feeling.
Something’s changed. Perhaps the wind has changed direction, perhaps it’s the time of year, or perhaps it’s because I recently spent 2 and a half weeks in Japan, the most awe inspiring, and technologically ‘out-there’ country in the world.
Japan is currently going through a unique cultural revolution, and has been for some years now. Population is increasing in age, decreasing in size, and sex is seen, by some at least, as a dirty, nasty hobby. In a world of baby-booming and overfilled schools, although still very busy, this comes as a welcomed surprise to the casual traveller.
It’s clear to see the conflict of east-meets- west culture. Tradition and understated respect intertwined with bright neon lights, Cat Cafe’s and McDonalds is breathtaking and confusing to say the least. It’s impossible not to take hundreds of pictures and gawp, wide-eyed at passers-by.
Then there’s the cleanliness. Many European cities claim to be clean and tidy, but Tokyo, and especially Kyoto, are in a different league. Bins are non-existent as everyone takes their rubbish with them, giving the impression that everyone simply works for ‘the greater good.’ In modern day Britain, this is plainly not the case.
So, there I was. full from lunch from the Shinjukukappa Nakajima Michelin-starred restaurant, which serves a selection of sardine-based delicacies for around £5, contemplating how much of a great time I, and my partner, were having.
Here, dear readers, is where I truly converted to a creator. helped by my Olympus OMD-EM10 camera and freshly obtained Macbook Air with Adobe Lightroom, I began cropping and adding classy vintage filters to the near-ridiculous amount of photos I had taken.
Without missing a beat, the obvious next step was to share my experiences with the vast, nameless horde in social media. Likes and comments flowed in like a babbling brook and I had got the bug.
Kyoto’s small, intricate and quiet streets, filled with the smell of freshly cooked tempura are magically enticing to experience. Ducking your head under the (unacceptably) low doors opens up a culinary adventure every time, with chefs and waiters bellowing orders to each other, bowing and smiling while taking you to your bar-stool, overlooking the masterful creation of some ornate and inviting delight. Whether it’s sushi, tayoyaki (battered octopus balls) or ramen, every meal is prepared with the kind of honour and precision normally saved for Swiss horologists. ‘Snap, snap’ goes the camera shutter, for the 950th time. Walk a few steps away from these delightful back streets, and you’re met by the wildly incandescent advertising signs and images, reminding you to either buy cartoon USB lighters or octopus ans sushi hats, another unique photo banked.
Riding the Shinkansen (bullet train) from Kyoto to Tokyo gives more chances for memorable shots. Mount Fuji on your right, vast plains of rice farms, dotted with little villages and small forests, not to mention the train itself. We clocked 185mph on the way.
Its difficult to remember you’re in the 21st century when arriving into Tokyo on the Shinkansen. On this huge, white, swan-line creature, majestically rolling into the station, the tweeting of fake birdsong welcomes you over the speakers. The façade is slightly lost when you realise the tweeting is repeated every four seconds, however.
Then you’re instantly thrown into some 1980’s interpretation of the 31st century. Flashing lights, crazy little schoolgirls and shouty anime posters. Quick, find some WiFi cafe to get uploading to Instagram! At which point, I found myself in one of the many notorious Cat Cafe’s across Tokyo. Yes, cats. And coffee. In one cafe. The coffee had gone cold by the time I had my fill of macro shots of sleeping cats.
Before I created all this wonderful content, I’d have finished here and you would be free to go and make a cup of tea. Now I’m contemplating a second post all about Tokyo. Lucky, Lucky you.
Japan’s food and culture have changed me fundamentally. I’m now ‘someone who has been to Japan,’ and all my friends, followers and subscribers know about it. Now of course, my weekends are all booked up with going and doing things, not because they’re exciting, but because they’ll offer the a photo-chance and the opportunity to get more followers.
The world’s come a long way since MSN Messenger…