Saturday, June 06, 2015

I Want To Go To Shizuoka in 2017

At Sasquan, the World Science Fiction Convention (WorldCon) being held this year in Spokane, Washington, attendees will vote on the four bids to host the WorldCon in 2017.  
It's a very tough group of cities vying to host the 2017 WorldCon.  When the list came out, about the same time as the groupings for the last World Cup, people starting referring to it as the "Group of Death," taking the name from the tough opening bracket the United States team found itself in.  The four choices are, as listed on the WorldCon website: 
Shizuoka, Japan
Montreal, Canada
Helsinki, Finland
Washington, DC, United States
It will come as little surprise to anyone that knows me that my choice would be for Shizuoka, Japan.  I make no secret about being a Japanophile.  I'm been interested in Japanese history and culture since I read the novel "Shogun" by James Clavell at thirteen years old.  That interest spread to anime and manga and eventually lead me to (as best I can) learning the language in my mid-forties.  My very first full WorldCon was in 2007 in Yokohama.  The experience was so enjoyable that I've made a promise to myself that I would go to every WorldCon after it.  A promise I've been able to keep thus far.  
But even though I had been thinking about going to a WorldCon for years, what finally pushed me over the edge of thinking about going to actually going was the half a day I spent at the 2006 WorldCon in Los Angeles and seeing the Nippon 2007 both in the dealer's room and learning that it would be in Yokohama the very next year.  
Two desires collided, merged, became one and grew into something undeniable.  I created a new item in my budget entitled "WorldCon Japan" and set aside as much money as I could each paycheck after that.  I eventually joined a group of about fifty other WorldCon attendees in a tour of Japan, joining them for about a week traveling across part of Japan, going from Osaka, to Kyoto, Kanazawa, Takayama, Nagano and then spending another week in Yokohama.  Before I left, I started getting worried that my anticipation had risen so high that I was setting myself up for disappointment.  
The trip did not meet my expectations.  It exceeded them.  It became the most fun vacation I've had as an adult up till that time.  Only last year's month I spent in England before the WorldCon in London comes close.  
I think it's time that I...  We, all my science fiction convention attending buddies and I, go back to Japan.  
I know, however, there is resistance to this idea.  I've talked with my friends in the fandom about it since the bid listing was announced.  I've heard the objections and the reasons to vote for one of the other cities.  "Japan has had it before."  "Helsinki was cheated out of 2015."  "It's too far."  "It's too expensive to go."  "I'd like to go someone different."  
I get it, I get it.  We all have our preferences.  I have mine.  They have theirs.  It'll be decided when the votes are cast in August in Spokane.  The winner will be announced.  Like my mom has always said, "That's why there's a horse race."  
I've actually wondered why she's used that phrase to indicate the fact that everyone have their own choices to make in life.  People may choose the horse they think is the fastest, but isn't it the horses doing the running deciding the outcome?  I get what she means though.  
And I also know that just wanting it to be Shizuoka won't make it happen.  So, with this blog, and entries on this topic to follow, I am putting forth the following premise: 
Japan is the most ideal country to host a science fiction convention in 2017.  
I'm not just saying this because I'm interesting in the country, it's history, culture and people myself.  In a nod toward full disclosure I admit I want to visit the country again, several more times, to observe and participate its culture and practice speaking its language.  
But one of the reasons I enjoy Japanese culture, its language and history is because it is very much a place steeped in what I feel are the values and perspectives of speculative fiction in general, and in science fiction and fantasy in particular. 
This is something of a big statement to make, perhaps.  But I believe it to be true.  And I want to convince others of it.  Convince them to the point that they'll choose Shizuoka to host the 2017 WorldCon.  
This is the first in a series of postings in my evangelistic effort.  I'll put forth my meager opinions, experiences beliefs, examples, shameless offers, and maybe an outright lie or two (I am a writer, you know) to get whomever reads my blog (both of you) to go to Spokane in August and vote for Japan in 2017.  
I will start with this personal experience I had during my trip in Japan before the WorldCon in Yokohama in 2007.  
Our tour group was in Kyoto.  For anyone who doesn't know, Kyoto is the cultural heart of Japan.  It's what the other cities in Japan might look like if not for World War Two.  Then Secretary of War, Henry Stimson, had honeymooned in Kyoto.  His influence allowed it to be spared the bombing attacks directed to other Japanese cities, including removing it from the top of the list of targets for the first atomic bomb attack.  Hiroshima took its place.  
We were walking along "Goban Dori."  That's Japanese for "Fifth Avenue," and like the Fifth Avenue in New York, Goban Dori is a very stylish, uptempo place.  Clothing stores.  Restaurants.  Bright lights.  Glitter.  Cars whizzing by.  Well dressed people filling the sidewalks.  If you ignore the signs printed in "not English" you could be in a number of big cities world class cities around the world.  
But one thing you notice about Kyoto is how the old and new exist side by side.  This is a city where you can meet someone whose family has owned the same house since the year 1500 (I had tea in this man's house).  
Walking down Goban Dori, I came upon a mon gate.  These gates mark the entrances to shrines or temples.  It was in front of a narrow alley next to an upscale fashion outlet.  I had just finished eating at a very nice shabu shabu restaurant with my group.  And even though we'd already visited numerous temples, I decided to go inside.  
I was immediately enshrouded in silence.  The cars.  The people.  It was like they had vanished behind me.  When I looked back, the gate was gone, hidden behind an unexpected turn.  I strained my hearing to verify the street, the very modern world I had been in but a few heartbeats ago, was still there.  Nothing.  I turned around and followed the turn...
Into a place I could only call exquisite.  A temple garden that looked like it had been preserved since the age of the samurai.  A pond, clearer than any mirror reflected the bow of the moon, like a samurai's weapon readied to let his arrow fly.  The temple itself was across the water, cloaked in shadows, lit from within by what had to be flickering lamps shaded in rice paper.  I heard the thunk of a bamboo water pipe, hitting a rock and dispersing the water inside before rising to be filled again.  I shivered as much from the chill air as the sense that I was somewhere very far away from where and when I had been before.  
I enjoyed that moment of peace for a bit.  Then, remembering my group heading back to the hotel, I turned around and followed the narrow way back outside.  The city lights through the mon gate made me blink, they were so bright.  But I still couldn't hear...
The cacophony of modern sounds made me wince after the silence of the garden.  Some trick...  Maybe the closeness of the two buildings towering overhead, blocked the sound.  But I hadn't remembered noticing them when I stood up in the garden.  I looked up to gauge their height, noticing the gibbous moon, a day or two from being full, fighting to be seen through the glare of the street lights.  
Gibbous moon?  Only the barest sliver was missing from its edge.  But...  Inside...  Over the garden...  I'd seen a crescent...?  
I looked at the mon gate, its opening dark and secret.  I had to get back to the hotel.  We were waking up early to drive to Kanazawa the next day.  I shivered again, though not from any chill air this time.  I've wondered what I would have found had I entered the gate again and gone back. 
Maybe next time I'll find out.  


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