Konichiwa! Greetings from the Land of the Rising Sun.
First I would like to tell that JAL has the cleanest plane; the kindest, most helpful staff; and the worst vegetarian food of all the flights I’ve ever taken. Also, fun fact for fans of Lost in Translation: the flight attendant’s announcements given in Japanese were many, many minutes long, while the English versions that followed were about seven words in length. True.
Tokyo has rendered me speechless, in more ways than one. At breakfast this morning, I failed in uttering the basic greeting “ohayōgozaimasu” (good morning) even though I had practiced it out loud about 1000 times; it came out “oh-hi-ga”, and trailed off from there. Amazingly, the staff seemed not to notice my poor Japanese skills, because no matter how few words I said (e.g., pointing to food items and asking, “Vegetarian?”), I was treated to a flood of Japanese in response. Either I’m good at faking understanding or my blank stares are hard to read. I was also rendered speechless trying to draft this post. Normally, when I arrive in a new place, I’m bursting with ideas I wish to inflict on others, but I have had a hard time making sense of this place. It is a city of nine million, but it sure doesn’t seem, sound, or smell that way.
Tokyo is surely similar to other large foreign-to-me cities: ubiquitous flower shops, South American buskers playing “Hotel California” on pipe flutes, green parks, tiny shops, Starbucks, and people staring at their phones. But it also has kimono-clad women, gourmet seaweed stores (“Enjoy tasting first-picking seaweed!”), adults riding bikes (including costumed ones; see below), vending machines every few feet, grownups reading manga over lunch, and face masks (to which I wonder: are the masks for them or us?).
Some good news: I had a yummy bowl of ramen at a vegan shop in the Ueno train station, although it might have tasted delicious due to relief in finally finding the place.
Anyway, here are lots of photos. Enjoy!
P.S. I walked nine miles today (without smoking!), and Japan makes number 31 in my countries-visited list. Woohoo!
Live all you can; it’s a mistake not to.