Tokyo: Day II (6 p.m.)

At Meiji JinguThe day has absolutely wiped me out, both physically and emotionally. I’m completely drained, yet mentally wired. My body seems to have automatically kicked into Tokyo mode, resulting in me spending the last 12 hours, with very few breaks, wandering the streets of Tokyo. Once again, I find myself both excited by and driven to study the Japanese language more earnestly.

Despite what I’ve done, I still have much to accomplish.

I met friends in Shimokitazawa for a nice shabu-shabu dinner tonight and ate entirely too much food. This also happened to be the closest I’ve been to Setagaya-ku, a place that still causes me a twinge of pain, in 15 years. All around me, I keep imagining seeing ghosts from my past… despite not knowing if they’re even still alive. This is something I did not expect, nor do I know how to handle it.

On my way home, I watched a presumptive couple on the train, faces buried in their charm-strapped cellphones. The man stopped only to lovingly study his new purchase – the worst pair of green and white striped socks I’d ever seen. Yet he seemed positively enthralled by them. That incident reminded me that I still don’t quite “get” the Japanese in so many ways. I’m sure I still look pretty odd to them, too.

General observations so far:

  • The Japanese, as much as I seem to understand them, are still largely incomprehensible to me.
  • What passes for “trendy” keeps getting stranger.
  • I still know my way around the city pretty damn well… even to the point of remembering where things were and what used to be where new things are. (e.g. “There used to be a Tower Records up that flight of stairs… 20 years ago.”)
  • The things that have changed are largely subtle.
  • The use of credit cards and the ubiquity of cell phones is conspicuous to me.
  • The JR Yamanote line never used to announce stops in English. I rather dislike it.
  • Japanese commercials are nowhere near as amusing these days.
  • There are many things that I love and have missed dearly about Tokyo.
  • Tokyo is still the loneliest city in the world.

I still feel calm and quiet at Meiji Jingu. I still get excited by Tower Records in Shibuya and Kinokuniya in Shinjuku. The crepes on Takeshita Doori in Harajuku are still wonderful. I still like to walk far longer than my legs are willing. I still hate how easy it is to feel completely alone, even while swimming in a sea of humanity. I still hate how, no matter how good I get at this language, Tokyo can still make me feel like a rank beginner.

The plan for tomorrow is Akihabara and Sensoji. Time allowing, I’d like to hit Tokyu Hands and Loft in Shibuya, and possibly even make another trip to Kinokuniya in Shinjuku, but that may require leaving my traveling companions in the dust.

I’m coming for you next, Kaminarimon.

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