The racing may have left Suzuka a couple of days ago, but Joe, DT, and I are hanging on regardless.
We're all loaded down with work, and it's just as easy to get it done here as it is in Tokyo, Osaka, Seoul, or Mokpo. As a committed Japanophile, I was determined to spend as much time in the country as I could, while minimising the amount of travel I needed to do. (See mention of being loaded down with work, above).
Of course, where a responsible person would finish the work they needed to do, I have been dicking about on the internet, trawling freenet, buying silly junk food
, and taking photos of bits of Japanese arcana that amused me. Like the live steak house above. Sounds delicious.Tomorrow we're off (at last!) to Korea, in a journey that takes in all manner of trains and coaches. Washington Hotel Osaka is my destination. Oddly, I shall be staying at the Washington Hotel when I arrive in Mokpo. I have a feeling the two establishments will be pretty different.
Last night over dinner, we were talking about getting it. The thing about racing that you can only ever understand from the inside is the way in which the lives we lead separate us from the world at large.
That might sound arrogant (scratch that, it probably does sound arrogant), but it's true. Racers - and that applies to those with the racing spirit, whether or not they're found behind the wheel on a Sunday - are a different breed.
The paddock is filled with people who make things happen. Need a new wing shipped over from the UK in time for qualifying on Saturday? No problem. Need a new component or six designed, built, simulated, and shipped between back-to-back races? No problem.
Limits that apply in the real world - time, cost, practicality - are non-existent here. If you see problems, not solutions, then Formula 1 is not the place for you.
The trouble with that sort of environment is that it inflates your expectations for the world at large. If F1 can do it, why can't [insert government/country/company name here]?
So where does this fit in to a travel blog?
Because Japan as a country perfectly encapsulates the spirit of the paddock. There are no problems, only temporary inconveniences to be surmounted.
This is a country where people make things happen.
Nearly ten years ago, I spent a month backpacking around Japan with my university boyfriend. We started our trip in Tokyo, where we were told to expect travel complications due to the construction of a new metro line that had only just begin. We didn't encounter any trouble, and figured they'd been delayed getting started.
Three weeks later, when we got back to Tokyo, we asked our taxi driver how the construction work was going. It was finished.
Given that the London Underground took about six decades to re-tile Regent's Park Station, it's safe to say that our fishy little minds were blown.
Japan continues to blow my mind to this day.
It's a country where everything just works, where the people are friendly and generous, and where there's a palpable buzz of possibility in the air, even after years of stagflation.
Despite facing a triumvirate of super-disasters in March that would have had many countries on their knees, there is little sign in Japan that anything is other than perfect.
The trains still run on time, the rubbish bins are still collected, and life goes on in all of those tiny ways that might seem like minor details but are really the hallmarks of a well-oiled machine running smoothly.
Of course, Suzuka is far from the affected areas. There's no immediate reminder of the tragedies.
But where many countries - not least the UK, which still hasn't recovered from the death of Princess Diana - would be cowed by the combination of earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear disaster, Japan is a country that refuses to do anything other than stand tall.
They roll with the punches, they adapt to circumstances, and they never admit defeat.
Japan is a macrocosm of Formula 1, and it's why we all feel so at home here.