shinjuku area, tokyo
i wasn't expecting tokyo to be cute. i certainly was expecting it to be big and populated, expectations that were definitely met. but tokyo is really just a collection of small neighbourhoods knitted together by metro, trains and freeways. small pockets of traditional buildings and gardens, lines painted to depict sidewalks on the neat and narrow asphalt lanes, and business signs with japanese anime characters help give the big city of tokyo its charm.
komagome neighbourhood (where we couchsurfed)
the cuteness extends to some obvious trends you see while riding the vast and often confusing metro system. every cellphone has its charm...dangling from phones of business people, teenagers and the elderly alike. cellphone use is restricted to texting only as there are signs posted everywhere appealing to your politeness and remind you to switch to silent mode...your phone and you! every purse has a terrycloth towel in a tidy square ready to dry the hands of its owner after washing at a shrine, temple or washroom. it is perfectly acceptable to nod off while riding the metro. at one point i nudged jason from his nap to witness a row of 10 bowed heads across the train aisle. you can't tell a book from its cover in tokyo. book jackets adorn each volume in various styles...plain vinyl or leather, printed giftwrap or even the paper bag of the bookstore from which it was purchased.
even the sewer covers are cute!
and oh how clean it is in tokyo! i have heard people rave about the cleanliness of singapore but tokyo definitely takes first place in my opinion. people wear face masks if they have a cold or even the slightest runny nose. the streets are immaculate and in pristine condition...their lines perfectly drawn. there is even a person dedicated to cleaning the escalator hand rails. he or she stands at the top of the escalator armed with cleaner and two cloths, one in each hand, positioned to clean the two rails simultaneously. the transient population keeps up the tidy obsession keeping their belongings neatly in boxes on wheels. we walked through a park one sunny afternoon to see several people laid out on their backs on squares of cardboard, shoes off and precisely positioned on the grass beside them.
some of tokyo's almost invisible homeless population
tokyo has a good mixture of modern city and traditional japan. we enjoyed our four days here and definitely plan on returning to japan. tokyo has whet our appetite for more.