Showing posts with label japan. Show all posts
Showing posts with label japan. Show all posts

January 28, 2013

The Crossing

One of the iconic destinations in Tokyo is not a temple or park, nor a palace or museum, but a street crossing in Shibuya. What makes this intersection such a fascinating sight is that when all the vehicular traffic comes to halt, hordes of pedestrians stream across in all directions at once.

A solid contender for the "World's Busiest Crossing" award, the excitement level at the intersection reaches a crescendo as the traffic signal turns yellow. The anticipation in the air is palpable. When the crosswalk indicator changes to "walk" a thousand bodies step onto the junction. The foot traffic follows a steady flow, as if everyone had years of practice. Collisions are slickly avoided by a slight alteration in each pedestrian's gait.

It is a magical sight that is best experienced while in the fray, but best viewed from one of the many coffee shops located in adjacent buildings. These are usually packed to the brim by crosswalk aficionados from far and wide. I was lucky to get a seat with a decent view at a second floor Starbucks, where two hour waiting times were once the norm.


"Until you reach the end of the road, there is still time to change the path you have chosen." ~ Susan Gale

January 27, 2013

The Emperor and the Harajuku Girls

From austere imperial gardens to vibrant youthful shopping areas, each neighbourhood in Tokyo had intriguing characteristics that set them apart from one another. Seoul, which at times is an endless loop of convenience stores, office buildings, cafes, cosmetics stores, apartment towers, and plastic surgery clinics, seems bland in comparison to the eclectic environs that Tokyo has to offer.

During the Meiji Restoration, the emperor regained control of Japan from the hands of the military generals who ruled the nation in all but name. As the time of shoguns and samurais drew to an end, the Empire of Japan embraced industrialization and modernization. During the Meiji period, the nation transformed into the military powerhouse that would wreak havoc on its Chinese and Korean neighbours in the decades to come.

Amidst a large evergreen forest in the centre of Tokyo lies the Meiji Shrine. The Shinto complex was completed in 1921 to honour the spirits of Emperor Meiji and Empress Shoken. The architecture is understated, lacking opulence but not grace. A short walk from the Meiji Shrine is youth oriented Harajuku and Omotesando, the premier fashion district in Japan.

In South Korea, the youth dress alike. As barely anyone has developed a taste for individual style, they follow the latest trends without question. The women dress exquisitely well and take care of their appearance. As for the men, it does not really matter what they wear. Nonetheless, it is safe to say that pants as tight as leotards, large purses, and eyeglass frames without lenses are not entirely flattering.

Japan has developed certain subcultures, so everyone is not a carbon copy of each other in the fashion department. Gothic lolita, punk, and visual kei are just some of the styles adapted by Japanese youth. Cosplay, where people dress up as characters from comics books, movies, or video games, is a popular hobby. The famous Harajuku girls gather in the area to show off their fashion sense every Sunday, but I did not notice any eye catching outfits when I was there. The locals, on the other hand, noticed an eye catching Indo-Canadian Temptation.


There are bugs that even eat knotweed. There's no accounting for taste. ~ Japanese proverb

January 22, 2013

Season of the Sakura

According to South Korean government regulations I could only apply for my work visa from another country, so I found myself in Japan. I spent a few days in Tokyo waiting for the South Korean authorities to process my visa application. It was a rather delightful inconvenience to have, providing me the opportunity to explore the world's largest metropolitan area.

The Japanese are extremely well mannered, or at least act the part with great authenticity. At the visa application centre, a Japanese beauty entered the elevator after me on the way up to the office. When we reached our desired floor, she stood to one side and let me exit before her. The tension that would have otherwise existed between us if she had leapfrogged me in the application queue never materialized. She had followed the First In First Out (FIFO) principle with grace and dignity.

With my application submitted, I had several days to see the sights in Tokyo while awaiting official recognition of my expert status in South Korea. Near to my hotel in Shiodome were the historic gardens of Hamarikyu Teien and the Tsukiji Fish Market. As cherry blossom season was winding down, I visited the park first to see the sakura in full bloom.

I walked at a swift, but not strenuous pace, till I reached the shopping hub of Ginza. I passed a capsule hotel on the way. The capsules provide a night's sleep for weary souls in tiny compartments that share more similarities to a washing machine than to a room. As darkness approached, the Tokyo lights began to shimmer. I went up to the top of Tokyo Metropolitan Government in Shinjuku to properly assess the scale of the vast city from its highest viewing platform.

For dinner that night, I feasted upon a raw meal at a superb sushi bar. In Vancouver there are a lot of all-you-can-eat sushi restaurants, but this was Tokyo. The à la carte approach found here was dangerous, as I quickly gobbled up dozens of pieces of sushi and was hit with a bill much larger than my sizable appetite.


Flower, Bird, Wind, Moon. Experience the beauties of nature, and in doing so learn about yourself. ~ Japanese proverb