Tokyo: Taking in the City

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This first week here in Japan has been a rush—it’s a blur of fast and often crowded trains, fresh faces, clean streets and completely fascinating new sights. Taking everything in and making sense of it all has proven to be a challenge; I always have a camera handy, a notepad ready to be scribbled in and flipped and squashed deep in my bag, and I am constantly waiting to see the next thing that will make me smile or gasp or grin.

Tokyo is something very remarkable, and the way its inhabitants move about you when you walk outside on a busy street or sway around you on a speeding train in the early morning makes you wonder how they perceive themselves. The Japanese seem to live life like an ongoing dance, a constant skillful swoop of motion. Every person I’ve met here so far has given me a new framework of viewing myself as a human being and of viewing and understanding the people I surround myself with back at home.

Before I set off on the plane at JFK airport, I spent a lot of time staring at my luggage splayed on my bedroom floor, worrying. I thought about what Japan would be like—how I would fit into the inner-workings of TUJ and of Japanese society—but all that time wasn’t necessary. So far, there’s always a seat for me on the morning train and on the way back from school; overlooking the few times I’ve stood out or caught attention on my trips around Tokyo, I’ve found it easy to mesh with the daily lives of those around me. I don’t feel out of place on a packed train during rush hour, and I don’t feel that I’m somehow “intruding,” either.

The first few days in Tokyo I felt awkward and I felt like an outsider in Japan’s comparatively homogenous society, like a tourist seeing the sights but at the same time encroaching on people’s spaces. I came to realize that shedding the idea of myself as someone who stands out helped me to relax and let myself become a piece of daily life in Japan, if only for a few months. I’ve only been here for a handful of days but already so much has been plopped on my plate — as cliche as it sounds, it really is true that because I’m in a new environment very different from my own, every day I feel as though I learn a thousand new things that bring on new feelings and thoughts that I have never experienced before.


 

So far, I’ve slept in a capsule…

9h Sleeping Capsules

9h Hotel in Tokyo’s Narita International Airport

…taken and seen many ways of getting around…

After the airport I rode a bus and then a taxi to get to the Kitazono Women's Dorm.

After the airport I rode a bus and then a taxi to get to the Kitazono Women’s Dorm.

I've flown, been hurdled onto Tokyo metro for the first time, and have spotted my new dream car.

I’ve flown, been hurdled onto Tokyo metro for the first time, and have spotted my new dream car!!

…eaten many new dishes…

Food from all over: the airplane, the airport, Kitazono Women's Dorm, and my first Japanese restaurant!

Food from all over: the airplane, the airport, Kitazono Women’s Dorm, and my first Japanese restaurant!

…and I’ve enjoyed so many new sights.

Here's Tokyo Tower, me with the view from my balcony, some scenes of Tokyo, and the lobby of the Kitazono Women's Dorm.

Here’s Tokyo Tower, me with the view from my balcony, some scenes of Tokyo, and the lobby of the Kitazono Women’s Dorm.

Tokyo has much more waiting for me to explore, and when my first full weekend of freedom comes, I hope to take in the foreigner’s view of Japan from new angles (and new train stops!).

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