Sunday, March 6, 2011

Going to Japan

Dear Tokyo,

I may be falling a little in love with you.  I wasn't sure that I was even going to like you when we stepped of the plane and were greeted by a swarm of mask wearing, hazmat suit clad, body scanning people. Next, when I got chastised by an unhappy immigration person because I couldn't seem to get fingerprinted correctly (You know it's bad when they actually have to STAND up and touch you to make it work.  Odds that my passport have been flagged- 100%), I wasn't feeling the love.  And then after that, I got trapped in the first bathroom that I attempted to use.  Don't get me wrong, I've been doing my research, I knew I was going to get to experience some funky pottys, but I wasn't ready to do it so soon.  First, I had to push a button just to open the vacuum sealed room, and then push another button to reseal the room.  When I walked in there were three toilets(?).  Well, there was a toilet, a bidet and something that looked like a dog washing station, but I'm pretty sure that wasn't what it was for.  Of course, I used the western-style toilet and all was well and good, until I couldn't find where to flush.  I thought it was maybe an automatic thing- nope.  All I could think about was everything I'd read about cleanliness, especially in the bathroom is so important to the Japanese culture.  And then I felt like I was going to be stuck in my space capsule of a bathroom forever out of shear embarrassment of being "that American" who couldn't even flush the toilet.  So, before I got kicked out of the country by the etiquette police, I decided to go for broke and push the buttons on the wall until I got a flush.  Luckily, the big silver button, which was nowhere near the toilet, was the magic button!  And I was able to escape the bathroom with my dignity (but not my humility) intact. So, my dear Tokyo, I was concerned that if the toilets were any indication of future flummoxing, we were not going to get along.

Once got on our shuttle to a hotel.   And as we drove into and through Tokyo, I began to feel intrigued.  Everything is so different here, especially compared to Guam.  It's clean, but it's not beautiful, but you can tell how important beauty is.  Because no, you may not look out of your window and think this is beautiful, as you walk around you see beauty every where.

We FINALLY got to our hotel and were very fortunate to attend brunch, even though we didn't have reservations.  It was nice not to go hunt down food in a foreign land so soon after arriving.  After brunch we attempted to take naps, and although all three of us were exhausted, only one of us (guess who? and it wasn't the 2 year old) was able to sleep.  So we decided to take a short walk around the hotel.  But we were so absorbed by what we saw, we walked for more than two hours.

It was on this walk that I saw the attention to beauty.  There isn't a lot of room to spread out here, but the space seems to be used efficiently.  In the neighborhood we're staying in there are small restaurants, patisseries and florists every few feet.  They are small, but beautiful in how a little can go a long way (I can't describe it, but I'll try to get brave and take pictures, it's just very clean in form and simple in presentation yet warm).  We haven't seen a restaurant yet that I would be scared to eat in, ok, I would but because I wouldn't know what I was eating, but not because they look dirty or scream out food poisoning.  And then in the midst of all these tiny modern, urban jewels there are ancient shrines, in the shadows of skyscrapers.

We're pretty sure this isn't actually a shrine, but someone's home and it may not be old.  But it is surrounded by skyscrapers.

And thank God for the parks.  We fell in love (other than with the construction, it appears that the waterways are being drained and cleaned) with this one at the Tokyo Library.  I loved it for it's charm, but mostly because it gave the little man a chance to run and climb and be a boy and burn off all the energy he had stored up after being confined all day in various modes of transport.

Tokyo, I'm pretty impressed with you so far.  You're making me want to live in a city again.  I'm excited to get to know you better over the next few days.

p.s.  I couldn't think of a good title for this post, but Price has been saying we're "going to Japan" for several months.  I'm not sure what he'll say when we're back home...


Amy Hall said...

You did Tokyo justice----just with your words! Enjoy every minute! :)

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