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ISSUE 23 ARCHIVE - DOS AND DON'TS OF DIVING IN JAPAN

Traveller

DO

Go there. It looks a long way the other side of the world on a Google Map. Or even an atlas if you are Old School. But thanks to the shape of this planet, and the fact that the UK is actually pretty Northern [despite what they say in London], the polar route allows an 8 hour flight direct. So that's 3 movies, an hour's kip and a bit of air-rage and you have arrived in a completely different culture in the time it takes to drive to Cornwall on a Bank Holiday.

DO

Try to stay in a Japanese style hotel. Western hotels are like ours but way smaller. A local inn has all those wooden shutter doors, futons and shared bathrooms we have seen in Kill Bill 1. On entering you have to move the low table from the centre of the room find your futon in the cupboard make your own bed and then ablute in the communal bathroom. Then go for dinner and join your new now-dressed friends for bits of fish whilst watching Sumo.

DO

Try all the waters on this far archipelago. Imagine a country where it's cold and mullety in the North but tropical and angel fishy in the South. Like the Shetlands to Sharm but under one flag.

DO

Watch a bit of YouTube before using a loo here. Only the Japanese can make a khasi something only a rocket scientist can figure out. There's a panel on the left for your music. There's a panel on the right for bottom-jet bidet functions. And somewhere there's a button for seat temperature. When you've figured it out you will want to have one at home. As I have. But they're made by Panasonic and cost over 500 quid and are difficult to get in your hold luggage.

DO

Rent local dive kit. It's better than you have at home. Think the latest kit you have tested out in Stoney think the cheap deal you got at the Dive Show well the latest Tokyo Nobel Prize winner for science has invented a regulator that speaks to you and cleans your teeth whilst sorting your gum diseases. It's that sort of country.

DO

Learn the subway system here. It is officially the world's most complex. But when you get it, you know you are the cleverest diver on the planet. International arrivals go to Narita airport, but you will have to fly from Haneda to go somewhere divey. A taxi is too lazy. A bus it too lame. Get the tube with all your kit and at the other end you will feel like you have traversed a cave system like in the Abyss, all on your own, with all the air- punching you deserve afterwards.

DON'T

Think Japan is expensive in any way. Yes, if you go to the local Nobu, drink French wine and ask for a gold Hummer as a taxi back to the hotel, you will part with a fortune. But here, no-one does this except rich exec-divers. Locals eat at a 7pm, drink beer from vending machines and eat street-food. And who has the better time I ask? Yes here the vending-pubs are a revolution. No recalcitrant barman. No wait. No scruffy dog in the corner. Slam in your 100 Yen, get some Asahi and sit on the chair by the machines nodding politely to all the suited traders about to die of over-work, doing the same.

DON'T

Go to a local hot bath, undress and relax if you have tattoos. Funny this, but as much as the Yakuza are feared locally, they know their position. Anyone with a tatt is seen as one of them, and they are not allowed in the 40 degree waters populated by happy families. That's the rules, so tape over your dragons and tigers, and call it psoriasis or tropical eczema if you want. But a glance of LOVE and HATE on your digits and you are out my friend.

DON'T

Buy anything electronic for a year before you go. No matter what gizmo Argos will recommend, Japan has it smaller, better and cheaper. Want a dive watch integrated to your blood pressure and The Donald's latest Twitter feed? Try the local station counter. They are so way ahead, it makes ASDA look like NASA.

DON'T

Complain about "scientific whaling". They will Ninja the shit out of you for that. Take that sort of thing to the Norwegians. Here you always have to be polite. They have a Zen way they deal with nature, and as much as we fox hunt or trawl our waters, at least they have a ceremony for the death of an animal which is more than we do. Well that's before they sell a tuna for a million bucks.

DON'T

Ever worry for your safety here. I have personally been mugged and held-up across most continents of the world. Except Antarctica where it was too cold to go out. And in Japan? Nothing. They are so polite and helpful that should you wake up in the trash under a railway pass after a particularly heavy night there's more chance you will have extra money in your pocket from a sympathetic passer-by rather than waking up naked after the theft of all your clothes and money which is what happens back here. It's the kind of place you wish the UK was, or should be.

DON'T

Forget to take a perfect mango and watermelon in your carry-on. Here the perfection of fruit is everything. It's a Shinto thang. 2 mangoes up Tokyo will cost you 100 dollars. A watermelon 70 bucks. Forget diving here, I suggest fruit importation will set you up enough to retire and buy Wraysbury.

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