Tokyo is an incredible, vast, diverse city. It is the Japan of our dreams, the one we picture when we think of futuristic billboards, technology, quirky fashions, and so on. This is Shinjuku Crossing, kind of like Times Square, only crazier. I sat on the 2nd floor of a Starbucks and watched the crowds:
I spent my last few days in Japan seeing Tokyo for the first time, and I absolutely loved it. Don’t get me wrong – I’m glad I was able to live in a rural area, where people are friendlier and life is slower. But Tokyo is a phenom among cities.
My last night in Tokyo – my final night in Japan – was quite special. I spent those few days reflecting on my two years there, and thinking about what was to come. On the final night, wanting to go out in style, I headed to Tokyo Tower for a view of the whole city. Tokyo Tower used to be the tallest structure in Japan, and is modeled on the Eiffel Tower. Only it’s bigger. And uglier. But at night, the ugly red-and-white paint disappears and all you see is glowing light:
I rode to the top and gazed out at beautiful, endless Tokyo. And while there, Japan said goodbye to me. First, with the full moon shining down over the city lights.
Then came the fireworks, popping far away on the horizon, one after another. I watched the show for a good half hour, together with other visitors. Then, finally, on my way out, I stopped on the lower level, where a jazz trio were giving a terrific concert on violin, drum and keyboard. I listened and danced for a while, and finally made my way out of the tower, content that Japan returned my love.
I’m now back in New York City, and my Japanese life feels so far away it might as well never have happened.
Back in high school, I spent one summer living with a host family in rural Belize. I had an amazing time, but after it happened I quickly readjusted to NYC life and forgot much of the trip. Then, years later, on my last night of college, it all came back to me. I lay in bed as intense memories of the trip washed over me – and these were physical memories. I could smell the hot cereal my host mother cooked me; I could hear the laughter of my six little brothers.
I remembered tiny details that had otherwise slipped my mind – the way my host mother and I connected over songs played on the radio, or the sight of heat lightning flashing across the sky at night. I recalled everything in such exquisite detail that I can only explain it as a kind of ecstasy. Like the ecstasy of St. Teresa, I was transported that night into another world.
But it took years before that happened. Years of forgetting. And there wasn’t much else that stayed with me from Belize. I can’t let myself accept that for Japan. It’s human nature to move forward, focus on the next step, and let the past fade. But I can’t let something I loved so much fade entirely. Japan will remain a part of my life; its people my friends; its traditions a space of my learning; its attitudes part of my own.
This will be the last entry for this blog. Thanks to everyone for reading, and following along with me on this adventure. It’s been mind-bending and life-altering…. I don’t know what’s next for me, but if I start another blog, I’ll link to it from here. Until then… peace out, and ganbarou!