91 days ago, we stepped out of a plane and directly onto the roof of a skyscraper, where a woman clad in a kimono was bowing to greet us. “Welcome to Tokyo! We’re so glad you’re here!” She beckoned us to the edge of the building, so we could gaze out upon the city’s incomprehensible size. “Look at all that awaits you,” she said. Then without warning, she pushed us off. As we plummeted toward the ground, scenes and images of the city flashed in front of our eyes, before the inevitable THUD. We’ve since picked ourselves up and re-adjusted the broken bones, but we’re going to need a long time to fully recover from Tokyo.
Never before has one of our 91-day stays passed by so quickly. Tokyo was intense. For three months, we tried to match the city’s pace, rarely taking time off and packing as much into every single day as possible. Tokyo demands it. Tokyo does not have time for your lethargy. By the way, while you were sleeping in, a great new band debuted who everyone’s listening to. That huge line stretching around the block is for gourmet hot dogs. Hot dogs are the trendy new thing, as of this morning. Didn’t you know? Oh, that? That’s a new skyscraper and, no, it wasn’t here yesterday. Get with the program!
Tokyo is tiring but, man, is this city fun. Getting out of bed was a daily struggle, but by the time we boarded the subway, we were fully awake and ready to go, usually assisted by a hot can of coffee from the vending machine. As draining as the city is, it’s equally inspiring. As long as you’re outside of your hotel or apartment, you’ll be consistently (and constantly) entertained. You don’t have time to remember how exhausted you’re supposed to be.
We loved Tokyo. Not everything about it, of course, but almost everything. We loved the architecture and food and bowing and sumo, and the city’s efficiency and cleanliness. We loved our fellow passengers on the subway: the uniformed schoolgirls who just could not stop giggling, the salarymen who were either drunk or asleep (or both), the kids playing Puzzles & Dragons on their phones, and even the gruff older gentlemen who clearly wanted us out of the way. We’re going to miss you guys!
But even more than the people, I’ll miss Tokyo itself. It’s a place with a personality all its own. From now on, every other city we visit is going to seem ridiculous. After leaving Tokyo, we flew into Frankfurt and, seeing its skyscraper district from above, I laughed out loud. This is a city? It is, of course, and quite a large one… but look at it. It’s hardly the size of Shinjuku! As far as cities go, Tokyo is an entirely different beast. Comparing it to Frankfurt is like pointing out that a gorilla and a kitten are both mammals.
So, we say sayonara. Usually, upon leaving one of our temporary homes, I find myself getting emotional. But that hasn’t been the case with Tokyo, and I’m not sure why. Maybe it was just too big to get to know as intimately as we did places like Savannah or Iceland. Maybe because, as fun as the city was, our over-taxed bodies and minds were ready to escape. Maybe it’s because we know that it’s only a matter of time before we return.
And there’s the distinct possibility that, as Tokyo grows distant in our rear-view mirror, we’ll become more attached. The experiences which we’ve spent three hectic months crushing into little balls and cramming into our minds will be given time to unfold. Although the 91 days we spent here seemed to pass in 91 seconds, the space which Tokyo occupies in our memories will probably come to feel like 91 years.
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July 14, 2014 at 4:02 pm