East of Everything
Hello all, and greetings from the Land of the Rising Sun. I've been in Tokyo for several weeks now, and I feel it's about time I attempt some introduction of the overwhelming place it is. As for myself, my name is Trevor Flynn, if you don't know me, and I'm a junior student studying abroad here. I'm a Theatre major with a minor in Religion and some delusional aspirations to creative writing.
The first thing to comprehend about Tokyo is how bafflingly huge it is, and for me this may well take the duration of my four-month stay. Even when I started making my daily commute by train, I didn't really get it and I shouldered my way through crowds of suits just like everyone else. It was only when I stopped to think if I had actually seen anyone twice, and how many people I had seen each day, that I caught myself feeling a little dizzy. As if to confirm this, I got a view of the cityscape from the top of the building where I'm staying, and promptly went back downstairs.
Another thing to understand about Japan in general is that nearly everything is in Japanese. I know this might sound obvious, but it's important. To a Westerner like myself with little knowledge of the language, the picture-based characters called kanji might as well be formalized chicken-scratch; there's no Latin there to hold on to and it's very disorienting. However, one of the two other Japanese alphabets, katakana is graciously used for adopting foreign words, and knowing this helps immensely. In addition, one of the most entertaining things here is what English signage does exist. There is a sort of disintegration of grammar in one's mind that starts to set in after even two days of reading English directions written by Japanese people; it's like Yoda is following you around.
Once you get accustomed to these things, as much as you can, there's plenty to explore. I've ended up in Japan due to a gradually increasing life-long interest in things related to the place, such as its animation, architecture, and religion. I've already been ushered into some major temples (such as the Shinshoji Temple in Narita, left) and caught glimpses of local shrines nestled in between sky-scrapers as well as on top of them. One such opportunity was a day-trip to Kamakura, the historical seat of Japan's first shogunate and home to perhaps the most iconic of Japan’s colossal Buddha statues or daibutsu.
Of course there have been many sights since these, including the flowering of the cherry blossoms which are already almost completely gone. I promise pictures of these and more in the next post.