Sleepless in Tokyo

{Posted from Tokyo, Japan} It is about 4:45am Tokyo time.  I woke up about thirty minutes ago and decided to let jet lag win this time and just get up.  There is so much swirling around in my head about this trip, this place, this experience, that I am eager to pour it out.

The operative words in Tokyo are movement and populated.  I say populated versus crowded because there are many people everywhere, but they aren't smashed together like sardines.  I have explored three areas of the city so far - the Ginza, Shibuya and Harajuki - and my favorite thing about all three has been the people watching, because there are so many people to watch and each neighborhood has a very distinct personality in terms of those people.  In the Ginza, it is much more of a "grown-up", elegant crowd - women shopping at Tiffany's and the multi-floor department stores and businessmen in dark suits.  Shibuya was a mix - probably the most like NYC in its melting pot feel.  Harajukuhas two sides to it.  There is Omote-Sando, a beautiful, wide, tree-lined boulevard with a mix of designer stores (Chanel, Bruno Magli, etc.) and teen boutiques.  It has a very European feel.  Then there is Takeshita-Dori, which is an alley near Omote-Sando where the teenagers rule.  They parade up and down the alley sniffing out the latest trends and accessories.  There were girls dressed like Little Bo Peep, Goth Girls, and boys with spiked hair and painted jeans.  There were girls whose style had more of a disco flair (think metallic turquoise hats) and girls who leaned towards punk.  Bobby pins with cartoon characters, cell phones with a handful of charms hanging from them, purse necklaces with the Cookie Monster and Hello Kitty.  A wild mix between urban sophistication and little girl cute.  I have already started thinking about going back and getting more pictures.

Tokyo also has a unique aesthetic and work ethic.  A few examples: * There is no litter anywhere. * I have heard one - one - horn honk the entire time I've been here.  In a city of 6 million people, that is incredible. * Anytime I have purchased something, the saleswomen have taken the time to make sure whatever I bought is in perfect condition and packaged carefully.  I bought a ceramic tray and the woman wiped it down with a cloth and inspected it for any chips or other damage.  I bought a few scarves and the woman picked off every little bit of lint before she put it in a bag. * There is color and beauty everywhere.  There is artwork on structures that "hide" construction sites.  The manhole covers have flowers on them.  In a food court that sells nothing but sweets, cookies and chocolates, it is a dizzying array of beautiful packaging.  There is no "slap it together" here - there is always effort made to add an element of beauty. * The taxi cabs are spotless.  The drivers are polite - everyone is exceedingly polite - and wear white gloves. * There is not a lot of skin showing, even among the throngs of teenagers in Harajuku with their wild fashions.  Style is not about showing off your pilates-toned body or new tatoo (disclaimer:  I have two tatoos), but about being who you want to be and expressing your role in the world.

Los Angeles is so much about status, who you know, what you are wearing, and whether or not you have rock-hard abs.  I do not mean to sound so critical, but I see this even more when I leave.  The layer of false-ness that exists in LA - the difficulty in walking out your door and feeling confident that whomever you may deal with that day will treat you with respect and kindness, and that they will care enough to do a good job for the sake of doing a good job, whatever that job may be.

I came to Tokyo thinking I would feel lost, disconnected and disoriented.  Instead, in a weird way, I feel very much at home.  I like the gracefullness of the people, the attention to detail and the peculiar way it feels quiet with so many people and cars whizzing by.  Home for me is so much more about what I feel inside about a particular place than about having to be in an actual place.  In other words, I will return to California - to my "home" - but I will now always have a part of Tokyo with me.  I will take this experience wherever I go and it will become part of my home - part of who I am and what I love.  Anytime I find a new place I feel comfortable in and love my definition of home expands, which gives me more room to grow and more pools of creativity to tap into.

And to think, the week is only half over...

[Three new sets of photos were uploaded yesterday, click here to see them.]

Christine Mason Miller

Santa Barbara, CA

Writer * Artist * Storyteller * Guide