Welcome to Tokyo

I arrived in Japan over a week ago, but I didn’t want to post on the blog just yet. The blog has gotten to be a fairly public space, and at first I wanted to keep Japan to myself. I know that sounds silly, but I’ve wanted to visit Japan for a long time, and finally arriving here – experiencing one of my dreams literally coming true – was something I wanted to feel on my own, in my own space, before sharing it with too many other people.

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Tokyo Tower.
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I saw this adorable ‘totem pole’ of robots close to a playground on my first day of wandering around the city.

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Bamboo inside a (very fancy) shopping center!
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The wooden torii gate at the Meiji Jingu Shinto shrine.

I have had one project meeting since I arrived, but otherwise I haven’t done much that would interest others. There is something that thrills me about doing the day-to-day mundane things in another country, such as taking the bus to a project meeting with other Japanese commuters and perusing the 100 yen ($1) shops for toothpaste. Sometimes these boring tasks and events are why I love the Watson; they are what proves to me that I’m not just a tourist, but that I’m here for a reason and for a long time, and that I need to learn how to live here. It’s why I loved grocery shopping in Gothenburg and getting stuck in Bangalore traffic – I felt like a local in those moments.

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Sake barrels at Meiji Jingu.
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Ema, wooden tablets at the shrine upon which people write their prayers and wishes.
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Before entering the shrine, it’s polite to wash your hands and face in a specific matter at this washing station.

Does that make sense? The Watson isn’t about seeing the glittering Supertrees of Singapore (as great as they were) – or at least, that’s not what I care about at this point in time. It’s about those small cultural exchange moments, like when I was eating sushi with my host family last Friday and my host mom pulled out a Japanese-English fish dictionary, which defines only various types of fish, to tell me what I was eating.

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The Shinjuku neighborhood; the Tokyo I pictured from the movies.
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Shinjuku.

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The Sumida Hokusai Museum.

People keep asking me what sights I want to see in Tokyo, and it’s funny to me because even though I talked about this place for years, I have no sightseeing to-do list (also, I like to avoid feeling like a typical tourist on the Watson). I’ve been so happy simply walking around, wandering through the residential areas and buying sushi snacks (onigiri) at 7-11, saying “ohayou gozaimasu” to people in the mornings and pretending like I’ve always lived in Japan. I’ve wanted to be here for so long that I’m happy just breathing in the air and slowly absorbing what it’s like to be Japanese, especially by spending time with my host family. Sure, I’m excited to see the cherry blossoms bloom in a few weeks and check out the imperial palace and temples; but luckily I have plenty of time for all that. For now, this is enough.

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Tokyo from above!

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“House NA,” a funky glass house in one of the quieter, residential neighborhoods. Of course the curtains are drawn, but you can still see the residents moving from room to room – and each room is on a different level!

Finally, for those of you who have been paying attention to the blog header image (hehe), I’ve updated it to include the latest international journey.

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