Tokyo Impressions

AsakaksaA melodic tune announces the arrival of the Narita Express train at Airport Terminal 2 station. It is heading in the opposite direction. I watch the passengers alight onto the platform. Girls in short shorts, high heels and stockings that cover their knees parade past oblivious to my foreigner eyes. People with face masks circulate around me. Businessmen carrying briefcases look solemnly ahead. I am finally in Japan, a destination I have previously postponed on previous vacations.

A couple of days earlier, I was gathering information on the internet. Today, subway diagrams become real stations. Names from a pdf street map turn into locations, each with unique sights and smells. Engrish signs are an amusing reality. Women walk around carrying parasols. And I am standing right here in Tokyo embracing it with a grin.

ShibuyaDespite moving in a busy city with 12 million inhabitants, there is an odd feeling of serenity in Tokyo. From the quiet ding of elevators openings and closing, to the soft sensor lighting on hotel floors, the automatic escalators resting between people, or the recorded chirpy bird songs at Shinagawa station in the mornings, in this concrete and glass jungle with tiny apartments and satellite dishes on minuscule balconies there is a noticeable lull that accompanies an otherwise frantic city on the move. Buses and garbage trucks glide past barely audible. Traffic somehow does not generate the noise to which I am accustomed at home. I feel relaxed despite minimal sleep. The evident lack of aggression in the city filters throughout my being.

Words like konnichi wa (hello), sumimasen (excuse me), arigato gozaimasu (thank you) and konbanwa (good evening) roll off the tongue as easily as I bow to locals, indicate numbers by hand or speak in short phrases. I finally understand why a Japanese expatriate friend began to speak English with incomplete sentences.

EngrishBeing a foreigner in Japan is a novel experience. Despite standing out as a tourist with blonde hair and a digital SLR camera, I experience a sense of invisibility amongst the locals. My existence, however, is not ignored. The Japanese are most helpful if you look lost with a map trying to navigate through the dizzying maze of JR trains, metro, monorail and subway lines or if you stand around surveying locales with a quizzical look.

There is a sense of distance that is maintained by the Japanese, possibly out of respect. However, they are curious people. I see their women check me out in a similar way that I do, hair, eyes, make up, fashion, figure, and shoes. The men are noticeably more discreet. They do not stare directly and their gaze never drops below the face. Yet the expression in their eyes tells otherwise; it reveals a respectful curiosity.

Meiji Temple TokyoAmongst foreigners, I notice an unspoken rule when we pass on the streets. We actively seek each other, listen to any cues of nationality or country of origin, maintain eye contact and almost smile in acknowledgement of our status as foreigners in this welcoming land.

The city of Tokyo leaves a lasting impression. There is a quirkiness in its culture, a fascination with high-tech toilets, creativity in its shopping malls, cleanliness of its streets, a safety factor and the efficiency of public transport. I am enamoured with it and its people. I leave Japan without trinkets or little souvenirs but with a formidable experience.

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Tokyo Impressions was last modified: December 20th, 2015 by Corinne Mossati

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Corinne Mossati

Corinne Mossati is the founder and editor of Gourmantic. An avid scribe, she has taken pen to paper since the age of five. Her repertoire includes long works of fiction, short stories and travelogues. She is a winner of the GT travel writing competition, has judged the Australasian Whisky Awards and several cocktail competitions. She is also named in the Australian Bartender Most Influential List.

3 Comments:

  1. I have dreams of getting to Japan next summer (fingers crossed) and you’ve just heightened that desire.  It all sounds quite a bit overwhelming but like such an amazing opportunity to immerse in a culture very definitely outside of my boundaries…at least in countries with a roman alphabet language you have a shot a orientating yourself!!  :-)

    • Shannon: I hope you get there :). The Japanese are hospitable although they may appear aloof at times. It is definitely worth the trip, for an experience that’s more than just a ‘holiday’.

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