Tokyo Rises

11:21 Paul Robinson 0 Comments

In Tokyo, it is very easy to satisfy any geeky tendencies you might have. Whilst I'm not into cosplay or girls dressed up as french maids, I am a sucker for a bit of organisation. With that in mind I visited the flagship store of the masters of all thing organisational and useful - Muji.

Day 3

I used to work for Muji as a student and I love the fact you could buy anything from single pencils to whole detached houses. I imagine that Japanese houses are full of clever little design ideas and ingenious shelving. I love all that.
 I had a Muji coffee and and a Muji sandwich while I was there. Both were pretty good too. In the cafe, I was struck by how many young families were out and about. The childrens' behaviour was amazing. Back home the kids are usually making a right racket and I'm not used to seeing toddlers in China.

On my wandering to find a cash machine I came across some performing drummers. They were promoting the Minchinoku Godai Snow Festival. The music was atmospheric and the costumes were entertaining. I would love to go and see visit the festival one day.

 The service in Japan is by far the best I’ve experienced around the world. I haven’t been refused anything and everyone has been able to answer my questions. If there are roadworks; someone is employed to guide you safely past the obstruction with a polite bow as you walk by. If there is an English menu; the staff at least know enough English to read their own menu. Little touches make everything easier. Public-facing service people have a great attitude in Japan and surliness is non-existent.

In the afternoon I headed to Miraikan, the Museum of Science and Innovation. I had made a visit solely to see ASIMO, the famous Honda robot. Unfortunately for me, he was being temperamental – he’d happily pose for pictures but he didn’t want to dance or play football. I knew the feeling.
 A screening in the 3D planetarium more than made up for the absence of robot dancing. The visuals were stunning and I could have spent hours in there exploring our solar system. I left feeling peaceful and in awe of our beautiful Universe.

There were lots of other exhibits at the museum too, including quantum computing and deep sea exploration. Lots of it was familiar because of my physics A-level studies and my friend’s chemistry ramblings. Even more so was new to me and all of it engrossing. There were English translations throughout and I’d definitely go again, if only to see ASIMO in action.
  On the train home, there was a beautiful red sunset above Tokyo. No one else on the train seemed to notice the sunset, although I’m guessing they aren’t familiar with my Chinese home town’s pea-soupers. A beautiful sunset is a rare thing these days.

After the sunset I visited the Mori Art Museum. It was refreshing to see some modern, controversial art. It was often violent, sexual or picturing war, like so much of Japanese culture. It was thought provoking though and it would be something that would never get past the censors back in China.

Day 4

I’d spent three days in Tokyo and I was struggling to find a narrative. When I visit a place I want to learn about its history and its culture. I want to hear its voice. Tokyo is so huge that it has everything so it is hard to distinguish its identity. To really get under Tokyo’s skin, I would have loved to have spent a month there exploring.  For every instance I saw a woman in a kimono or a sumo on the metro, there were countless Starbucks and Gap store diluting the exoticism. Just as I was getting tired of hearing another bunch of tourists discuss their boozy night out, I walked down a tiny alleyway to discover a local shrine. Tokyo is full of surprises. 
  Japan traditionally had many Gods. Gods for absolutely everything. In Tokyo, there are little local shrines everywhere. The people from the surrounding few streets gather at their shrine to pay their respects. I guess Tokyo is another manifestation of Japan’s multifaceted, polycentric culture.

I’d felt like I’d hit a bit of a plateau in Tokyo. I wasn’t meeting any friendly locals and I wasn’t getting beyond the tourist hordes. I found myself at the Meiji Shrine. The shrine was built in honour of the restorative Emperor and came highly recommended. Billed as a ‘peaceful stroll’ in the guidebook, it turned out to be a huge Sunday procession. 
  My luck was in however, because something special was happening at the shrine. There were lots of people mucking about in traditional clothing and even more of those ‘crazy’ Harajuku girls. Whilst I enjoyed seeing the traditional dresses, I wasn’t impressed with the Harajuku girls. I had misspent many an adolescent weekend spiking my hair and traipsing through Manchester in baggy jeans. I wasn’t goth but I had plenty of friends who were. They revelled in dressing up on a Saturday. The Harajuku girls are just goths and moshers taken to an excessive degree. Let’s put it this way, if it happened in Huddersfield, the ‘Huddersfield girls’ wouldn’t have got a mention in that Pink song.

I killed my last few hours in Tokyo by going to see a Manga movie. I have read a few One Piece comics so I decided to see the film version. I was actually watching the 12th instalment of a series. The things I saw were pretty but without understanding the dialogue, the story was a mystery to me; much like my whole Tokyo experience.

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