Continuing my series of paeans to pariah states...
Japan? Pariah state?? I hear you cry.
Well, I'm in China, you see, and round these parts Japan is Public Enemy Number Ichi.
On seeing the first backpacker in spring (after Vaughan Williams)
I returned to my presidential suite at the Queer Mountain Hotel the other day to find I had company. Yes, my room had been officially designated the laowai [foreigner] dumping-ground - many hotels in China don't allow foreigners and Chinese (except prostitutes, of course) to share a room, on grounds of racial purity, national security, or for your own safety.
My room-mate turned out, on closer inspection, to be a Japanese backpacker. Of course, one Jap-packer does not a summer make, but the vanguard of the backpacker migration must at least herald the coming of spring.
The Japanese are always the first to emerge, like early crocuses. They are hard, you see. Just take a look at Japanese TV game shows and you'll know where they're coming from.
Japanese backpackers are pretty cool, actually. Abhorring the bustling boulevards of the Lonely Planet, shunning the smooth paths of the Rough Guide, they have their own, mystical magical backpacking books, which take them to places caucasian crowds cannot reach. And then they do their stuff - spending six hours locked in a tank with a hundred million snakes and scorpions, and other delights which keep them a breed apart from the LP/RG massive.
Presumably, this means they have some different anecdotes, too...
Anyway, this chap was off on the road to Tibet. In this the Japanese have an advantage over the palefaces - they can pass for Chinese, which helps gets them past the checkpoints.
Good luck, mate.