Re-imagining Tokyo / May 06, 2005

I remember looking at the picture of EGM's Japan correspondent in the autumn of 2001 and wishing I had his job.

Between long sessions of playing Keiji Inafune's Onimusha and reading Kazuo Koike's Lone Wolf and Cub I would sit down and try to imagine a typical day in his life. That process would inevitably conjure images of quiet leafy suburbs, high-speed trains, swank offices and impossibly congested downtown locations as well as long gaming sessions and socialising with legendary game designers and rockstar journalists. Night-time would include exotic dishes, dimly-lit bars, slanted-eyed goddesses and, of course, plenty of drink.

I should have known better.

And I say this because even though by the autumn of 2001 I still hadn't managed to make my way to Japan (or to any other Asian country, for that matter) I was, even then, an experienced traveller, having lived for many years in various countries in Europe and North America. The most important thing that my jet-setting lifestyle had taught me up to that point was that the destination always looks and feels very different from the image you hold in your mind.

Not better or worse, you see, just different.

In the end, no amount of reading words or staring at photographs will give you a perfect image of the place you are planning to visit. If anything, the image you will form by looking at a place through someone else's eyes will greatly diverge from the one you will eventually form yourself when you reach your destination.

And that, of course, is how it should be.