My Time in Tokyo
As much as I enjoy the initial adventurous phase in being in a new place, I treasure the phase when you settle into a routine. When what was initially new and different is incorporated into your daily life.
Now, after six weeks, I have definitely found a routine to my life in Tokyo. And it is only when I pause to reflect on my environment and current experiences that I realize how truly different my routine in Tokyo is to my “normal” routine — although in a school where you are constantly travelling the globe what is normal really?
My routine in Tokyo begins at 6:02 with my first alarm clock.
After I push snooze several times, I am truly awoken by my 6:22 more annoying alarm clock that rouses me from bed and gives me the perfect amount of time to pull on workout clothes and meet the other early-risers by the back door of our share house.
FIIT, a high-intensity early morning Tabata workout group, began in San Francisco founded by other students; but so far we have been able to revive and maintain this habit here in Tokyo. It was brought back after the first week with the realization that between long work days and long commutes we were left with little time to workout–unless we chose to rise early.
We jog to a nearby park, always managing to attract attention from the other early-morning exercise group of elderly Japanese, always finishing up at 6:40 right as we are beginning. We exchange smiles and Konnichiwa’s,and they stare as we go through our various exercises. We realized from their perspective our partner squat-dip exercises, high-fiving sit-ups and sporadic sprinting probably looked quite strange (just as their exercises looked somewhat strange to us) and indeed once we were asked by an older woman if we were a “dance group”. Just for additional clarification, we are not a dance group.
By 7:20 we are back at the sharehouse and I get ready for the rest of the day.
I usually head out around 8:30 and generally spend my 20 minute walk to the station thinking about and then eating delicious tuna-mayo onigiri. The 7/11 roughly marks the halfway point between the train station and our share house, meaning that I spend the first half of the walk thinking about how hungry I am and how delicious the onigiri will be. As I finish my onigiri I enter the station and usually rush a bit to make the 9:02 express train.
While the Express comes with the bonus of fewer stops, it is also packed with people. I slip my backpack on my front and pause my music and pull up a book to read for my journey into Tokyo. Sometimes I find myself pressed by people in all directions. While I still try to avoid the morning crowds to the extent possible I have come to accept that my 9:02 train will always be crowded. Instead of fighting it, on those days of unbearable crowds, I simply balance my phone on the back of the person in front of me and continue reading as I do on other days.
At “Omotesando desu” I depart from the train, after the majority of people having already exited at Shibuya, and walk the remaining half a mile from Omotesando to Gaiemmae where my office at Mistletoe is located. This half a mile walk is an effort to save a small amount of yen — but also simply because it is a nice ten minute walk and allows me to avoid cramming into a different train for a single stop.
At work I greet my colleagues, catch up on emails and then begin working on projects from the day before. At some point I check in with my boss to see what I should focus on for the day and work passes — at the beginning of my internship passing slowly but now quite quickly. Between coffee and work I reach 1 pm and take a break for a jog and lunch.
I usually run for a half an hour three times a week on my lunch break, often several loops around the Jingu Stadium. Sometimes to Yoyogi. Once at the beginning I took turns randomly and then found myself exploring Harajuku. It doesn’t really matter too much to me how far I go or how fast I go — it’s simply about getting in a break from sitting down for the first half of the day and get re-energized for the second half of the work day.
After jogging I eat lunch at the office and return to work, working until around 5:30.
After the workday is completed I’m usually quite tired. Sometimes I meet up with friends after work and try out different types of food — sushi in Mizonokuchi, salmon-avocado bowls in Ueno, the commune in Omotesando, fancier food from Roppongi. But after the workday it’s also nice to return to the luxurious housing in Mizonokuchi — the huge kitchen and communal space and my well air-conditioned room. On these days I take turns to cook with several other friends. We have settled into a routine of fried eggs, rice and miso with every meal.
At night I catch up on other work, read a book or relax on the roof. Most often it’s the last option, the roof offering a beautiful view of Kawaski to the right and Tokyo to the left.
It’s so strange to think of how normal this routine has become to me now, but yet how foreign it will feel in two weeks time when I return to my routine at home.
When I switch from our FIIT exercises at the park to morning yoga sessions with my mom or running with my dad.
When I substitute my mayo-tuna onigiri for a bagel or oatmeal.
When I go from my tokyo packed commute to a relaxed walk or bike ride through the empty sidewalks of my neighborhood.
When I think back on those movie-like nights on the rooftop and compare them to Lincoln’s small (but growing) skyline not visible from my neighborhood.
As I travel and live in other places with Minerva I hope to find a rhythm to each place. But I also hope that amid all the different routines that I remember each of them and appreciate the lessons learned by each experience.