Travelling to new places boosts enormous amount of positive energy and gives new perceptions to life in many dimensions ! Recently, I spent two weeks in the beautiful city of Tokyo for work ! I always enjoy business travels as my focus is not on sightseeing. But Instead I get an opportunity to experience everyday life living like a local.
TOKYO CAB EXPERIENCE
After a 14 long hours of flight from Bangalore with a layover at KL, finally I landed in Narita Airport. I was totally worn out and desperately wanted to stretch. With no veggie food in the flight, I was starving ! I didn’t had the patience to explore the trains to reach my destination with limited English access. So, I conveniently hopped on to a beautiful black cab. The driver was very pleasing and navigated me through the city. It was very long drive.
My first impression about the city; Ah… This city looks like Hongkong but no skyscrapers. Seaport on one side with connecting bridges , broad roads , but no big buildings ! Boom, when I reached the hotel , the cab bill showed 30,000 Yen, almost 300 dollars !!! I knew Tokyo is an expensive city but for 300 dollars is a lot! I learnt my first lesson, cabs are for super rich – stay away !
PEOPLE PEOPLE EVERYWHERE
Next thing which caught my eyes people everywhere. In cross roads, in train stations, inside the train, in the elevator or escalator, ubiquitous. You will never feel lonely in this town on road at any time of the day ! But you will hardly get a smile from them or even an eye contact. People queue up everywhere and they move without any hustle bustle ! That is truly amazing. It is like ants marching in a row carrying food and not dashing even in cross s roads.
Whenever people ask me, ‘ why Indians don’t have patience on road ?. My standard answer was about population explosion. We always had to fight to win. Experiencing Tokyo, I realized this as a wrong notion. This city is even more crowded than Bangalore, but they have decorum. Now time for me to swallow my pride of being Indian. It is an Indian mentality to push & rush, and get everything first! Time to think about it.
I have heard stories of Japanese orderliness and their attention to minute details. But in such a densely populated city, maintaining insane order is no joke.
On a Friday morning at peak hour I happened to wait for my coworker near an elevator. In that 15 minutes, I watched few thousands of people entering that building. But completely queued up to enter the elevator to go to their respective floors !! All I heard is only foot steps, security guard’s greetings and beep sound when they swiped the access card. No boisterous laughter, none shouting on their phone, absolutely nothing – totally disciplined ! I don’t know if its good or bad. Though being quiet and following the rules shows extreme discipline. But it makes me feel everyone acts like machines than humans !
It is quiet a strong comment , I agree !
I do get the same feeling while driving in US. Aren’t you guys bored driving like this everyday ? There are no unruly drivers, no honking, no overtaking, no cow or dog crossing. (I am leaving out driving in NYC). Back home, All my senses are super active while driving. I have to swear at few people on road before I reach my office. That makes my ride more lively – its a stressful drive for many, but I have no complaints! I am totally tuned to live only in Bangalore. I do crib everyday about traffic, bumpy roads, detours. But still I get bored driving in same lane for long time in same speed ! Another realization after two weeks of insane orderliness! (Well I am an Indian, no wonder!!)
AN ACCESSORY WORTH CARRYING
Probably the only thing that was unpredictable and disorderly in Tokyo was the weather. When I thought it is going to be sunny and wear my sunglasses, it was cloudy with mild showers. When I carried my umbrella and wore my blazers , it was freaking hot and humid ! Obviously, you would expect locals to be in skimpy linen shorts for such a crazy weather. But, On the contrary, you can count the number of women or men in shorts even in a crowded street. Women choose to wear beautiful skirts and men unbelievably in black and white formals.
Most men carry a handbag/ Tote bag, quite an unusual accessory. Every time I come across one , it reminded me of Joey from Friends sitcoms , carrying a man’s purse. Japanese men seems to totally enjoy the comfort of so many pouches in it ! Well everyone may have to carry an umbrella all the time and the Japanese coins. 1 yen coin is the lowest denominations and when you have 10, 50, 100, 500 ! I am sure you need a handbag 🙂 no matter what gender you belong to.
INTRESTING OFFICE STORY
Japanese are extremely workaholic and work place is always quiet and people mind their own business, without any distractions! One of my non Japanese co worker had an interesting story to share. He had to leave his laptop at work for many technical updates. So he couldn’t swipe out of office on a Friday evening and he returned to work on Monday. The register had proof that this person was in the working campus for the weekend. Monday morning he was escorted by a team of health care professionals and had to undergo few tests. But best part is mandatory two day break from work! I was really shocked to hear that story and if only such an event can happen in India. Huh too much to ask or dream 🙂 !
CULTURE & TRADITION
Japan is a place which has ingrained traditions. Starting from authentic food, Sumo stables, Geisha culture, Rugby passion and so on… It is interesting to know about sumo wrestlers who dedicate their entire life for this sport and in return get only peanuts compared to other global sports celebrities. But women this generation doesn’t want to get married, in fact men get paid for dating a women which was strange to me. Their passion for animations and robotics etc. are some very interesting and unique things to talk about! So this small piece of far east island has so many hidden treasures to explore and learn!
BEST EVENING OF THE SOJORN
With very few vegetarian option during weekdays, my cravings were at its peak and I was ready to binge eat. I convinced my colleagues to explore a Japanese vegetarian authentic restaurant. It is an unbelievably traditional place. A series of dishes thoughtfully presented and served one after the other by ladies in Kimonos. It was an incredible dinner in a beautiful private set up! The best evening in my entire Japan sojourn and I totally relished every bit of the meal with sake on the side !
MEMOIRS OF GEISHA
Someone brought up the topic about the novel “ Memoirs of Geisha” by Arthur Golden. And It caught my attention. Next thing, I picked that book and I went on it in full swing ! It is story of a Geisha, narrated by herself portraying everyday life during world war II. This periodic fiction novel, is melancholic and makes readers pity the life of Geisha in those days. Unfortunately, they were treated nothing but just as an entertainer for rich and wealthy men! They were showered with expensive gifts from aristocrats and bureaucrats just to entertain them everyday in tea houses! Such a pity !
What a massive change in those men who partied everyday during the great depression but are now walking on queues on streets and forgot to carry even their social smile. War seems to have changed many things in Japan drastically!
Well, I spent the rest of the weekend walking around beautiful parks in early morning with mild showers. And in the evening, hopping between different streets in busy downtown, Roppongi! I hardly visited any tourist place as all my other trips. That two weeks in Tokyo was one of my best business trips. It was very relaxing trip though I could not satiate my palate everyday with vegetarian delicacies! Definitely, I might have to take few more trips to Tokyo for work and I am sure I will explore more. But nothing can replace the first experience and I totally fell in love with Tokyo !