In 1990, my friends and I went camping on the islands of Kunashir, Shikotan and Iturup. Deep inside I knew that some day I would reclassify this trip as my first visit to Japan. Rich in mineral resources, but completely laid to waste, this Russian version of Japan looked in its shabbiness like any other remote area in Russia. When the tanked-up pilot of an old cargo plane had twice missed the landing strip, he decided that we would be flying back to Sakhalin if he did not manage the trick on our third run. The truck driver, who was a military man, just fell out of the cabin when he made a short stop on our way to a local settlement. As it turned out, the only thing that had kept this drunk steady was the truck’s seat. To be able to ever get back from these islands of amazing natural beauty – i.e. to buy a ferry ticket – I had to shamefully push a bottle of Vana Tallinn liqueur through the ticket window.