Couple picnicking behind the Sensō-ji Temple in Asakusa
For the last 11 years Pavel has been traveling to Japan at least once a year. And this is the first time I’ve ever tagged along. What was I waiting for?
Before I arrived I thought that the sheer mass of people here would be hard to take. There are apparently about 35 million people in the metropolitan area. I’ve never been invited to such a big party.
It turns out that watching people moving back and forth is actually kind of mesmerizing. I’ve had breakfast a couple of mornings at the Dean and Deluca at Shinagawa, our local train station.
It’s close to Pavel’s office here, so we can grab a quick bite before he leaves for a long day of work and I set out to explore Tokyo.
It’s a wonder I leave my stool at Dean and Deluca. I could stare out that window for a week without getting bored. The men are mainly in black or dark grey suits, but there is a surprising amount of variation in hair styles, from closely cropped to Beatles mops.
Walking through the station is a bit of a trick. You don’t hear people’s voices much, but their feet come across loud and clear. Pavel tells me that as it gets closer to 9 AM the steps are much faster. The first day I waited too long to cross the mass to the exit. I did something like a 3-point exit, looping backwards and then accelerating determinedly across a few hundred people.
But you’ll be pleased to know I haven’t spent the whole time in the station. I’ve spent a lot of time on the train too.
The Tokyo subway system is a massive and well-oiled machine. I’ve only waited more than 4 minutes once for a train, and then only because the first train that came was too full. Tokyo style too full that is. Which is Portland style ‘Oh my god—I need space!’.
Since the city is so big, going most places seems to take at least 20 minutes. But that’s no problem. Watching people is endlessly fascinating.
They nap on their way to work…
They curl their eyelashes…
They read. (The book seems to be alive and well in Tokyo. I’ve stumbled into two different 6-floor bookstores—without even looking for one!)
They socialize on their way home from school.
They show off all sorts of styles
They practice dances, following lessons on their phones…
They nap on their way home from school
And then they wave good-bye one last time to their friends…
And they sleep on their way home from work at midnight.
And look…when you get off the train, you can take a bus. And it’s striped!
I’ll try to post again soon and let you know where I’ve been exploring on all those trains.