July 27, 2009
I’m currently sitting in my hotel room staring out at stretches of lit-up windows dotting Tokyo. I should be out wandering aimlessly amongst them, since I have no idea when the next time I’ll be in this city will be. A representative from my prefecture (the region I’m living in) said earlier today there would be a karaoke night for all of us and, despite my trepidation about singing Michael Jackson songs badly in front of a crowd of strangers, I planned on going. When I showed up in the hotel lobby, though, nobody was there. After several minutes of me creepily hanging out near the reception desk, I decided that they must have left early. And now I’m up in my room staring out a window at a city I’d like to be exploring while one of my roommates is snoring on the other side of the room. On the plus side, I’ll get plenty of sleep, which I could use.
I could beat myself up over not getting to see more of Tokyo, but I’m convinced it isn’t that bad. Trying to see everything this city has to offer in only three days seems borderline impossible – one night walking around Shinjuku revealed that this city is massive and mysterious. The only semi-decent city I can compare what I’ve seen so far with is New York, and even that doesn’t really capture it.
Stores and restaurants clog the streets, and most buildings hide three or four different establishments within. Entire shopping centers lurk underneath train stations, and you could never tell from the outside. People sleep in cardboard boxes. The only song I heard playing from a store was something by Pink. You can buy a tall-boy sized can of Coke for only a $1.30. The salt shakers look like pandas. I think an anthropology expedition would have a hard time figuring this all out, let alone a goofy tourist.
Writing about Tokyo just seems weird not having seen much of the city. I’ve spent most of my time cooped up in a (extremely nice) hotel going from one workshop to the next. Add to that the still persistent jet lag, and I’m in no condition to try to muse about anything. But I really, really want to write something about this – I’ve wanted to be here for two-and-a-half years, and to finally be here and not be able to share any sort of deeper thought on it seems as wrong as the AM PM convenience store five minutes from my room (alternatively, I could just be at a loss for words due to how awesome this all is. Half-full or half-empty, it’s your choice). On the bus ride from the airport to the hotel, as we drove by verdant landscapes and intricate urban areas, I thought “I want to live in this city at some point before I’m 30.” But why did this thought spark? I don’t know, and I don’t think I will until I spend a significant amount of time in Tokyo. Which I won’t be doing anytime soon.
Well, at least I have something to look forward to. That and sleep. Sweet, sweet sleep.