I’d like to thank my friend Yunji for gifting me a travel journal. I didn’t expect to feel so compelled to journal so soon into the trip, but Tokyo has been so much sensory overload in the best possible way. It’s so much more than I expected. Please find below an edited version of a passage I wrote last night.
“I am sitting in the tatami room of my AirBnB right now.
The crickets are chirping outside, and the sound of families chatting after their dinners in the quiet neighbourhood of Sancha 三茶, which is a part of Setagaya, flows through the open window.
I am also writing this entry with my new Muji pen.
The nearest Muji store is on Chazawa-dori 茶沢通り which connects the area Sangen-jaya 三軒茶屋 to another larger area, Shimokitazawa 下北沢. 茶沢通り is filled with eateries, local clinics, coffee shops, konbini (convenience stores) and generally anything you might expect to find in a typical urban Japanese neighbourhood. There’s a 24-hour Seiyu (department store), 7-11, FamilyMart, and a few more places I haven’t been to. There’s also a scale model of King Kong sitting atop a kickboxing gym and a soba-ya 蕎麦屋.
All I can say is every time I look around, I feel like I’m in a dream. Everything is so new and yet oddly familiar, and when I opened my window this morning I looked out at the tightly-packed houses with thatched roofs behind me, then at the traditional appointment of my room and I realized I really wasn’t dreaming.
I’m living in Japan for five months, and this is only the second day.
My recollections will come to me in bits and pieces. But every feeling, every thought I have on this trip, I want to remember, because everything is so 印象的 – impressive. Even now the first thought that I had was “this Muji pen is so convenient it writes so beautifully and does not bleed even though I’m 左利き (left-handed)”. (Exhibit A of my confirmation bias about the wonder of Japanese products) Did you know they have left-handed exactoknives? I’m floored.
Today I bought 3 books at Muji and 4 at Taiseido 大盛堂 in Shibuya – partly because I want to feel Japanese and partly because I really want to read these books, and really because I wish so badly that I could read them as quickly as a Japanese could.
By the end of the day I always feel so exhausted from having to translate between Japanese and Cantonese for Mum all day. You should see the looks I get from people waiting in line when I’m trying to explain the entire menu at a fast food restaurant. By the end of the day my head is a cesspool of words I didn’t know and am trying to remember, or words I looked up and am trying to memorize, and just a constant cauldron of my native language(s) and what seems more and more to be my adopted one.
I went to Shibuchika Shopping Road to buy a backpack with Mum, and as Japanese of all walks of life passed me by in their rush to and from the many chapters of their lives, I couldn’t help but feel the desire to be one of them – to speak their beautiful language, and wear their amazing, unique clothes, and live in that indescribable megalopolis they call Tokyo.
The Greater Tokyo Area holds 10 million people. 一千万人. That’s 3 Vancouvers and a bit. It’s one of the great cities of the world, embodied for me today by the sight of the Shibuya Scramble. Japan possesses one of the world’s great languages and cultures – one that I have been enamoured with all my life, one that does not cease to amaze me and one that I will pour out my heart and soul to get to know these five months.
My mother told me that I look more handsome today. Maybe that’s because experiencing everything that is “Japan” is all that I’m concerned with – no tasks, no schedules, no places to be. Just open eyes, a careful tongue, a sharp mind, and a warm heart.”