Monday, October 26, 2009

Fukushima and Tokyo

My hosts in Fukushima were an American man Kevin, his Japanese wife Mayumi and their 2 year old son Yamato. It was a very short but wonderful stay. Yamato and I bonded within few hours; Mayumi cooked delicious dinner and gave numerous recommendations for my trip; Kevin captivated with tales of his world travels and his kind heart when he helped me find my bus at 12:30 at night.

Fukushima is a small town but it charmed me with picturesque mountain landscape; bountiful farm fields ranging from rice and cabbage to apples to peaches; and its hospitable residents. Kevin and I biked through town on his tandem bicycle in the morning and in the afternoon we took off for a mountain range which revealed a spellbinding scenic view of the autumn foliage.

At 12:30am I caught an overnight bus to Tokyo.

I arrived in Tokyo at 5:30am. Still sleepy, I walked over to the Tokyo Station rinsed my face, brushed my teeth, left my bag in a locker and set off for the city.

“Morning Tokyo” immediately reminded me of New York. I am not a morning person and the only good thing about my early commute to work was the experience of the “morning city”. I knew how crazy, busy and wonderful the city was during the day. But it was even more special during morning hours. The sleeping city was covered in a hazy veil of dreams. It was magnificently silent and empty. I loved hearing the birds’ chirping and sensing the whisper of the wind. In the summer, the mornings brought cool breeze of the night and in the winter, fresh crisp of the snow.

“Morning Tokyo” was just the same. I knew that the empty, silent and tranquil streets I was walking would soon be overtaken by hordes of crowds. The street vendors would be yelling from top of the lungs attracting customers to their shops; the “sararimen” would be rushing in black suites to and from while talking loudly on phones about business deals; the children would be running around chasing birds and making their parents worried; the school girls would be flaunting their long skinny legs and make “sararimen” forget about their business deals; the tourists will stare blankly into maps and snap photos of everything they’ll lay their eyes on. It would be a noisy, dirty, busy, full of life, wonderful city. But not just yet. Now I was bathing in its silence. Appreciating every tree, noticing every cigarette but, hearing every footstep, sensing every motion, feeling every breath of wind, smelling every flower.

My layover in Tokyo was only 15 hours but I spent it well. I explored the Tokyo Station with its abundance of shops and agencies; I walked the Gardens of the Imperial Palace, I roamed the streets of the famous Ginza neighborhood, I met a Japanese friend and took a confusing subway ride to visit an old museum outside the city.

This view reminded me of Central Park

I knew this was just a quick hello to the city. “I’ll be back soon enough”, I whispered to Tokyo that night as I was situating myself on a bus, which was taking me to Shikoku.

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