A Tryst With Tokyo

Imagination can be very cruel sometimes I think. Before traveling to a certain country you start to conjure up an image of what it would be like once you are there. This image starts to darken its mark once you start researching and reading about the country you are traveling to starting a few days or weeks or even months before your travel. My imagination of Japan was being conjured up for 9 years.

Wondering why 9 years…I adopted Buddhism as a spiritual philosophy of my life when I was around 17 years. I had been reading about Japan and all its devastation and greatness in my mentors writings for years and building up this image in my mind — erasing and re making it as the years passed by and my power of imagination grew better. But it was only when I stepped into this country, that I could ever truly understand why Japan — withholding the test of time stood there in all its beauty.

When I stepped into Tokyo, notoriously famous for its reputation as of one of the most expensive cities in the world, I was not very sure what to expect besides a big metropolitan city like London or New York. I soon realised, that it was so much more than the reputation it had created for itself. The city was absolutely different in the day and in the night — I have never seen the same places look so different. Whether it was the streets of Shinjuku or Shibuya, neighbourhoods famous for its nightlife, global brands and restaurants with cuisines from all over the world or the Tsukiji market with its fresh fish and sushi shops lining up one after the other like the land was worth of gold; cramped in nooks and crannies were the fresh raw oysters and sashimi’s by locals shouting and welcoming you into their restaurants. From the streets of Harajuku famous for the origin of many of the local fashion trends, the Takeshita Dori street or the lanes of Roppongi with the night clubs and buzzing restaurants with a spectacular view of the Tokyo tower, all in all the city never failed to disappoint you or let you take your attention away from it. It was like being on one of those great dates which demands all your attention and energy and manages to engage you all evening. And then there are these occasional moments in a date where you laugh not because its funny but because its kind to let one pass. Akhibabra, a neighbourhood famous for the electronic market and funny maid cartoon café’s was one such pass for this great city. But as I was packing up and leaving for Hakone, close to Mt. Fuji I wondered what did I like the best, the nightlife, the food, the culture or was it the shopping. Why did I have this urge to come back to this city again ? I realised that it was the warmth in peoples heart with which they guided you to your next destination on being asked, almost like showing a guest around your house when they come for the first time; the beaming smiles that forced you to smile back cause how could one not return such a favor; the pride in peoples eyes when they did their job whether it was being the owner of a hip restaurant or a train conductor showing you the train timing; the ownership that they had for the land and the city, never throwing things or breaking them but most of all it was the mutual respect that people had for each other almost like how one soldier has for the other for their endurance through the years of service. I was watching the intersection at Shibuiya, that is said to be the busiest intersection in the world. It is said that sometimes almost a 1000 people cross the intersection at the same time but never bump into each other, they just find their way. I felt it was one of those mechanics that you just master of not getting in other persons way cause frankly speaking who has the time. But when I watched them put an uncanny order to their chaos it felt as though they were respecting the other persons space which led them to carefully manoeuvre their moves. You learn something new everyday in this city and frankly speaking I would return to learn more than to visit.