Meanderings in Tokyo

There’s so much to take in of Tokyo. It’s quite a complicated and layered city. Rather than try to put together a coherent account of my visit to Tokyo/Japan, I’ll offer some random thoughts and observations. Maybe after a little time, I’ll be able to put together something more… well… put together.

* Starting with the surreal – I suspect that Tokyo, and the Shibuya district in particular, probably spends more money on hair care per capita than any other area in the world. Wow. Cuts and colors working towards very specific images. It’s fascinating. I also saw my first Ganguro girl. This is a fashion style that involves blond hair and deep tan on a Japanese young woman.

* If you’re going to climb Fuji, you’ll want to bring 3 liters of water per person. I recommend 1 of those liters be a sports drink of some sort. Also, bring a light. Some accounts of climbing Mount Fuji say that you don’t need to – that you can count on the huge number of other climbers to light your way – but I disagree. There were long stretches when it was just us, and more lights in our group would’ve been welcome.

* Tokyo has a fantastic subway system. I have yet to see a delay, and the people are very good about following the formal and informal etiquette. The cars are even air conditioned. London can learn a lesson from this city’s system.

* The feeling on the street changes at lunch time when the salary men leave their offices for lunch. It’s just a first impression, but it seems so much sadder to me. And at the end of the day, on the subway, most seem so exhausted.

* Japanese children have to be some of the cutest kids in the world. Oh my god, they’re just absolutely adorable.

* I like Tokyo so much but I felt like I was getting such a limited, narrow view, so I went out of my way yesterday to get out and try for fuller image of the city. I started by making my way to the suburbs around Asakusa. It was much quieter, and interestingly enough, there were still quite a few businesses. I wonder if there are purely residential parts of the city? I don’t know. Afterwards, I hopped on the subway to go to Shinjuku to witness some of the city’s dark side. There’s a part of Shinjuku focused on gambling (mostly pachinko and slots) and adult entertainment. I even had a barker in front of one establishment ask me to come inside for a massage. Needless to say, I turned him down. Nearby were also a number of love hotels. Places that couples can meet at during the day.

In the end, it helped to temper my view of the city. I’m still enjoying myself immensely, but I didn’t want to fall into the trap of idealizing a place as a tourist and I don’t think that will happen now.

* I finished the day yesterday by going to an onsen (hot spring/bath). It was so nice, especially as a way to recover from the stresses of traveling/climbing/walking around so much. I was a little uneasy at first. I was concerned about “which of these bodies is not like the others” but the pure pleasure of the hot waters quickly wiped away that anxiety. Although, one little boy was quite curious about the hairy foreigner. *grin*

The place we went to was huge, apparently the Disneyland of onsen. It included a replica square of old Edo. Think a combination of Disneyland and Chucky Cheese. The baths themselves are gender separated, and instructions are both in Japanese and English. Although, the bath signage was Japanese only, so I ended up picking baths at random. The one exception was the cold water bath. Fortunately that one had an English label, so no unwelcome surprises there.

It was a wonderful way to end the day.

* There is a Ninja themed restaurant, that while pricey, was well worth the money. It was so much fun! The staff dress as Ninja, there are secret doors and the restaurant is warren (including a draw bridge), the menus are on scrolls, the food is themed (think Shuriken shaped crackers for the foie gras), a Ninja-magician goes from room to room to perform tricks, and the food is quite good. We picked the least expensive course menu; 7-8 courses for 77,000Y per person (approximately 70US). An 8.5 on the Samer scale. Yum!

Dinner company was CC, Anne R., Yoann, and Yosai. It was a terrific night with lots of good conversation about culture and art and education and personal journeys. A big thank you to Anne for her kindness at the end.


~ by Samer on July 26, 2007.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: