Showing posts with label Tokyo. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Tokyo. Show all posts

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Tokyo For Foreigners

Watching a few documentaries recently on YouTube about the experiences of culture shock of Westerners in Japan got me thinking of the time I visited Tokyo in 2010. Now I love to travel, but I truly hate that experience you get when you're in a foreign land and cannot speak the language. It almost turns you into a toddler, unable to communicate the most basic of needs and wants. I once got terribly lost in the Tokyo subway system and asking people for help was virtually futile as hardly anyone spoke English. Nonetheless, the Japanese people I asked were very nice, and they tried their best. I somehow eventually found my way.

So what was my experience like in Tokyo? Well, I remember the first night in Tokyo I went to the Shibuya district, which is kind of like Tokyo's Time Square. It's a very trendy district and full of Japanese hipsters. I felt a bit out of place because I wasn't stylish enough. I hadn't really brought any stylish clothes with me because the main destination that I was going to was Bali, and Bali is a tropical resort where you really have to dress as minimally as possible because of the heat and humidity.

And so I spent the night ogling at the people...

Now I come from New York, and we have plenty of Asian people, so being around tons of Asians is not something new to me. But in Japan it's a different story. I was on their turf, their land, where their history goes back centuries, uncorrupted by strong Western influence. Although Japan was occupied by America after World War II, the Japanese, being a very secretive people, and living on an island, have been able to retain a strong core to their cultural identity. Whatever American or Western influences you see there are mainly on the surface.

So of course I headed over to Starbucks for a drink.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Mindful Ramblings: Tokyo, Philosophy and Nihilism

Watching Lost In Translation again reminded my of my trip to Tokyo 3 years ago. I noticed that I didn't write about that experience as much as I could have, I actually devoted just a single blog to it. When I was walking through the streets and alleyways of Tokyo's brightly lit Shibuya district seeing all the Japanese hipsters and wannabe models strutting on the sidewalk, I was enamored. I regret not being as stylish as I could have on that vacation. Looking back at my pictures, I was dressed rather blandly. I unfortunately also didn't have enough money during my stay there to be able to do the things most tourists want to do, but absorbing the culture and atmosphere is relatively free.

Japan is a very safe country and I felt no fear whatsoever walking Tokyo's streets late at night. Why is it that this small country of 120 million can live so peacefully? Some might say it's their strict firearm rules, but I say it's their culture that is more responsible. The Japanese, while not a very religious people, live under a very strict code of discipline and honor. Stepping out of bounds is frowned upon and the shame associated with it keeps people from engaging in negative behavior. The Japanese people in my experience were very friendly; they went out of their way to help me when I was hopelessly lost on the subway, despite the fact that most of them do not speak any English.

In Lost In Translation, the Scarlet Johansson's character is "lost" as to where her place is in the world. She studied philosophy and is actively searching for meaning and purpose. While watching the movie, I couldn't help but think of nihilism's outlook on life. There are many ways to define nihilism, some of which I don't agree with. To me, nihilism is just not believing that there is an ultimate or objective purpose and meaning to life. It doesn't at all mean that we can't find subjective meaning in our lives and everyday experiences. So what if there aren't universal consequences to our actions; so what if life is finite? The finitude of life is what makes it more important: a precious moment with somebody special is special because it is a moment; if it lasted forever it would lose its value. Diamonds are valuable because their rare. If they were as common as dirt we wouldn't care about them as much. Once something becomes common it instantly looses its value.

So while we may search for meaning and purpose in our lives, in the nihilistic sense we at least are given that freedom. There is no cosmic purpose for us that we'll have to obey or face the consequences for, and that comes with a sign of relief. When we experience love in our lives with somebody special to us there is no need to invoke a spiritual aspect to validate its existence. Love is natural, and while at a purely physical level it may just be electro-chemical reactions in our brains, the consciousness which experiences the sensation and bond created by love is very real. To call love just an illusion under naturalism would be like saying that consciousness itself is an illusion.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010


It's been a long time since I wrote. As I write this now I am in Tokyo Japan. I've been here for a few days. It's amazing and I'm not sure if its what I thought it would be. Trying to navigate its subways is an incredibly complex task. I got lost several times. Japanese people don't speak English as much I thought they would. Communication here is almost always a difficult challenge. I guess I should have learned more Japanese before I got here. Actually I should have learned any Japanese.

Tokyo is not really a walkable city like New York is. The sightseeing districts are spread out several miles apart so you have to take a train or taxi to get there. Plus the trains stop running at 1:30 am and some, like the one back to my hotel stops running at 11 pm. Tokyo is not a 24 hour city like NY is. It is however pretty clean and very safe. I was walking around late in the early morning hours and didn't feel afraid in any way. They say that in Tokyo you can leave your cell phone on a bench overnight and it will be there the next day waiting for you. Let's just say that I'll take their word for it.

The weather was decent while I was here. The prices were pretty high. I guess factoring in the exchange rate Tokyo is about as expensive as NY is. The only difference is I don't know the tricks around this dilemma like I do for some of New York's more pricier things to do. There is virtually no diversity in Tokyo, only tourists basically. I did see one black guy, working of all places at a McDonalds. I'd come back here again, with more money and with friends instead of my family.

I'll put up some pictures later.


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