A Moment In… Tokyo

Summer classes ended over a week ago and they start back up two weeks from today. In the last few days, I’ve been almost struck by lightning (ok fine, more like I watched it strike a tree very nearby and that is as close as I ever need to get to being hit, thank you very much), and then – five minutes before the power came back on (after being out for five hours), I found a four-leaf clover. Just sayin’ (yeah yeah, probably means shit, but lighten up people  – it’s still summer!).

I’ve decided life can be just as crazy when I’m not traveling. There is no calm before this storm, there is only storm; my “vacation” has become a whirlwind of to-do lists. With my sister’s wedding fast-approaching (it’s this weekend! WHOOHOO) I figured I should take a quick moment on TwT to escape it all and travel the farthest away that I have ever been: TOKYO, JAPAN.

You enjoy this post while I put the final touches on my Maid of Honor speech. Oh, and feel free to share your impressions of Tokyo as a comment if you’ve been!

Shibuya at night.

Tokyo is one of those places that somehow manages to combine two opposite worlds into one. In a lot of ways, it encompasses everything I dislike about NYC (Times Square — the lights, the chaos, the crowds, the fluorescent, constant noise), which is then multiplied by ten and covered in an indecipherable (to me) script, making it all the more noisy. Yet, at the same time, it is a city speckled with beautiful, clean and simple Shinto shrines that stand high above the fuss, stoic and strong. The chaos of modern Tokyo life is woven gently into the fabric of a very beautiful Japanese history, and somehow, in Tokyo, it works.

Temple near Ueno Park. (Notice the man passed out on the rooftop?)

Prayers from locals and travelers dangle on wooden postcards outside a shrine in Tokyo.

Tokyo train. You spend many hours hopping around the city on public transportation, and usually a random Japanese person sitting next to you falls asleep on your shoulder.

Me (circa 2006) with one of many very delicious udon soup bowls that drew me into a cozy Japanese bubble when the dreary February air made me want to run away.

Street near Ueno Park. Tokyo.

A fountain outside the Imperial Palace in Tokyo.

Japanese kimonos for sale on a street in Tokyo.

Paper lantern outside an Asakusa temple.

One day, I ventured to the Asakusa Senso-Ji temple (the oldest temple in Tokyo) for a morning away from the modern side of the city. The smell of incense wafted through the damp February air, and people entered each temple barefoot to pray before monks and admire the beautiful Buddhist artwork.

Approaching the Central Temple in Asakusa, Tokyo.

Central Asakusa Temple. Tokyo.

One of the coolest things about going somewhere like Japan is feeling inescapably like an outsider. In some countries, I can blend in seamlessly (well, almost). In others, like Japan, I wear my “visitor” card like a name tag everywhere I go. But somewhere between the cups of hot sake, the confusing subway lines (you try finding your stop when it is written in Japanese script! Here’s a visual.), the quiet Shinto shrines, and the neon lights of Shibuya, there is a beautiful city that can be just as quiet and zen as it is loud and in-your-face.

Hopefully I can find that place right now, as I jump around in the pleasant chaos of this so-called summer “vacation.”

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10 Comments

Filed under A Moment In..., Asia, Japan, Life Stuff, Travel, Winter

10 responses to “A Moment In… Tokyo

  1. jealous. this looks such fun!

  2. I loved my brief time in Tokyo. I definitely want to return to see more of the country. I went during sakura…amazing!!!

    • travelswithtavel

      You’ve been?! During Sakura it must have been amazing! I also went to Kyoto and am definitely more of a Kyoto fan. I would love to go to the countryside next time… But I definitely felt Japan was everything I imagined it would be. So much more of Asia to explore before I go back though!

      Thanks as always for your lovely comments.

  3. Noemi

    LOVE IT!!!!!!!

  4. How cool to visit a place knowing it’s the farthest you’ve been! I’d love to go to Tokyo. That and Hong Kong have always looked so cool to me, but so far my travels in Asia have taken me elsewhere. Glad you had fun — your pictures are great!

    • travelswithtavel

      Thank you so much Abby!! Yeah… You can ONLY go so far away, right? I would LOVE to go to Hong Kong too, but there is just so much ground to cover in Asia… I just hope it doesn’t go anywhere so I can check thins off over the next 50 years or so 🙂

      Thanks for reading and I’m so glad you like the photos! These are from before I had a good camera, but they still do the trick.

      Cheers!
      Tavel

  5. Geordie

    Hey T,

    Great post, you really gave a sense in a few words of what I imagine Tokyo is like. Also, the novel I’m reading right now takes place in Japan so great serendipity! And I hope you knock ’em dead with your toast.

    • travelswithtavel

      Thanks G! Glad to hear it. Serendipitous, indeed. 🙂

      Thank you for the toast-luck! Eek! Wedding is almost here.

      TALK SOON. Hope all is well with you!

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