In 1946, my maternal grandfather, who was a PR man with the Royal Indian Air Force at the time, was posted to Japan for 3 years as a part of the British Commonwealth Occupation Forces deployment. His experiences there were rich and everlasting, and a few decades later, I would grow up hearing all about them. In his time there, he learned the language, made friends for life and was overawed by their hospitality, kindness and etiquette, a lot of which he came to adopt as his own.
Papaji, as us grand kids used to call him, passed away in ’89 but he left in me a fascination for a country that had greatly impacted him, and a desire to visit it some day. My love for trains helped reinforce this ever so often, what with the endearing image of the Shinkansen (Bullet Train) against the backdrop of Mt.Fujiyama, always whetting my appetite for the land of the rising sun.
61 years after his return from there, it was with some trepidation and a lot of excitement that I embarked on my first visit to Japan – the Big Sushi (local parlance for Tokyo) in particular – and set out to experience first hand all that I had heard, read and seen (from afar) about the country and its people.
First thing I did was get my timing right – be there in time for Sakura or the Cherry Blossom season!