We only got back yesterday afternoon, and perhaps it’s the jetlag, or the very dreary late-winter weather in Cape Town, but I’m feeling mopey and heartsick in a way I haven’t in years. I think I might just be in love with Tokyo.
When visiting a city that holds an iconic status, it’s inevitable to arrive with preconceptions, drawn from movies, books and magazines, which means that I arrived in Tokyo expecting a city of flashing lights, Bladerunner landscapes, thronging, people-dense city streets, with mysterious side roads offering up occasional glimpses of old Japan.
We saw the lights and throngs at Shibuya crossing, and the crazy get-ups at Harajuku, and we passed through Torii gates to be enchanted by moss gardens and temples, and then we ducked down the side roads and rounded out our picture of the city with sights of discarded shoes at the door of public baths and beloved potplants at front doors and marvellously tricked-out bicycles.
What I really didn’t expect to encounter was a city of 13 million people where daily interactions are kind and sweet, and where courtesy is much more than good manners – it is a means of conducting every aspect of your life.
So, not only are interactions in shops and on the street impeccably polite and friendly, but there’s also no litter, the public loos are spotless, and you don’t have to nail things down to avoid them being nicked. I honestly didn’t realise it was possible for people to get along with one another so well in an urban environment.
We didn’t bring back a lot of souvenirs in our luggage, but the thing I’d like to take away with me from Japan is that deep-seated, wide-ranging courteous mindset that I saw and experienced. I want to find ways to make it part of my daily consciousness, because it blew me away, and I’d like to be part of it.
PPS: Huge thanks to the awesome Liezel Strauss of Subject Matter for putting us up fpr a few nights and for introducing us to Tokyo in a whirlwind tour, and also to the lovely Rumi Nagata for her kind friendship and translation assistance too. So nice to see internet friends for realsies! Hope to see you both again soon. xxx
PPPS: Hugest of thanks to the gals at the studio for keeping the show so seamlessly on the road while I was away. Special thanks to brand-new shop manager Astrid who found herself thrown in the deep end, and surfaced doing synchronised swimming moves. Yay for Team Skinny!