Of raindrops and subway stops
It has been a most beautiful, cool, rainy day here in Tokyo. I sit now at a small corner desk braced above and to the side of a lime green, half-moon dresser which houses a small fridge and shelves. The wall behind me is glass, top to bottom, left to right, separating the bathroom from the bedroom and my desk. Track lighting overhead, an LCD panel mounted to the wall, and my favorite–two windows that open fully in order that I may invite the rain to occasionally land on my keyboard. A perfect use of a small space. Both compact and comfortable.
In my home-away-from-home hotel room, I look across to an apartment complex where a man in his 70s uses the black iron fence on the fourth floor landing to assist with his morning stretches, a woman of similar age waters her plants, and an old temple retains the only grass for as far as my eyes can see, its closest perimeter a grave yard with polished granite tombstones.
Tokyo is a surprisingly quiet mega-tropolis. Few horns. No yelling. Not a lot of traffic noise for public transit is far, far more common than driving a personal car. Just a low level hum and tonight, the cool rain captures the remnant pollution of the day, each drop a transport from sky to ground. The air is crisp, my windows open, the heavy comforter inviting me to bed once I complete my work for Terra Soft. But the work is never complete and I will likely push into the early AM to be online realtime with my staff in Colorado, California, and Canada.
Of pastries and people
I stood in the Shinagawa station, leaning against the glass store-front of a French bakery (where I purchased yet another bag of wonderful breads and pastries; an interesting, unexpected complement to the incredible Japanese cuisine) and watched the nearly unified mass of people in motion. It was surreal. I have never in my life seen that many people move through a space that quickly without incident. I had to remind myself this was not a video game nor scene from the Matrix where men in black suits replicated. I attempted to apply a story to each one, their parents, education, jobs, their own children. So many humans on this planet. Each has a unique story, yet the vast majority go untold.
They come in waves which swell and retreat, from shoulder to shoulder to just enough negative space to navigate if you hurry and do not falter. Sometimes I stop in the middle of the crowd and look up at a sign, down at my subway map, and again at the sign, the tell-tail behavior of a tourist, I know. Yet I am impressed by how I am seldom bumped, the people of this place experts at moving through life without need for substantial personal space.
I stood at the top of the stairs to the JR line and could not fathom entering the mass for fear of falling and being trampled. I waited and watched, as one would wait for a break in a storm before dashing across the school yard to the bus stop. Even when I did brave the passage, the density on the train was such that it was impossible to fall for one was held upright against the mass of black suit coats, black pants, and black shoes while someone, somewhere at the other end of the car, received the immense pressure of acceleration working on these otherwise immobile bodies.
Of visas and vistas
I have truly enjoyed my time here, breaking down my childhood stereotypes built upon too many late nights watching Godzilla, Inframan, and b martial arts flicks. Perhaps in the work of Akira Kirosawa’s “Dreams” I find the most relevance. Even this second time, Tokyo astounds me in so many ways, like no other city I have experienced. I both cherish its nearly sterile cleanliness and organization, and yet at the same time long for the chaos of the streets of Nairobi or the raw, overpowering unfamiliarity of Bangkok.
I was to have flown to India a few days ago, but for lack of visa am now awaiting a phone call from the embassy. I will soon experience something altogether different as my employee Karthik and I race through nearly three dozen meetings in just three weeks in four of India’s largest cities.
Last week I enjoyed a day at the hot springs with a co-worker from Japan and Sunday bouldering on the limestone which lines the river off the Ome line Mitake station. I have arranged for more business meetings, and attended the ballet in the new TBS/Sacas arts and entertainment complex. Tomorrow I will visit the B-Pump rock gym for the second time. This weekend, if I have not yet received a call from the Indian embassy, I will return to Mount Mitake for hiking, climbing, and walking by the turquoise blue river whose relentless carving of the limestone gives locals opportunity to boat, fish, and enjoy something other than concrete beneath their feet.