I am reflecting as we travel to Narita Airport, an hour outside of Tokyo, that this is probably the last time I will be in Japan in this lifetime. This is a strange thought and it makes me especially aware of the people and places I have been seeing the past couple of days.
I don’t really like Tokyo although I had hoped to change my mind on this second visit. The city has some lovely parks and an amazingly complex transportation system. The people are beautiful, slim and fashionable. It is a very modern city, a shopper’s paradise, with lots of skyscrapers in futuristic shapes, even a glitzy copy of the Eiffel Tower we could see from our hotel that lights up in neon orange at night.
But for western tourists, it is a humbling frustration in interpretation. Without being able to read the characters or understand the spoken language, and without much English on most signs, we moved between maps and texts in both languages trying to discern where we were and where we were headed. We were routinely lost and quite excited when we achieved our destination. We visited two parks, took a boat ride on the river, negotiated the subway several times, and had a wonderfully unexpected dinner high above the city because we couldn’t find the restaurant we were looking for.
It was a perfect example of living in uncertainty, the familiar signposts of culture and language removed, forcing us to search for different ways of being in the world. Maybe that’s why I haven’t fallen in love with Tokyo as I have with other world-class cities – it’s too much work! And in this case, not enough reward for the effort. There aren’t the squares of Rome or the cafes of Paris or the Bund of Shanghai. But it’s good preparation for our next five weeks of touring India and Nepal. I feel as though the adventure has begun. For that I am very grateful.