Thursday, June 28, 2007


Tokyo means "Eastern Capital". It went from being a tiny little farming town called Edo during the early 1600's in the Kanto plain to one of the most populous cities in the world, with over a million people living there at the time Commodore Perry "invited" (read: forced) Japan to open the port of Tokyo to trade with the rest of world. Today the city has an unequaled modern look, probably as a result of enduring two massively destructive forces: The Great Kanto Earthquake in 1923, and intensive firebombings by US and allied forces during the second World War. The complete recovery of the city from both of these events can be taken as a metaphor for Japan as a whole. It is the showcase for a culture that has developed a seemingly unequaled resourcefulness from centuries of making do with the limited resources that accompany island life.

There is no parallel in my mind to this place. Although the air of Washington DC is regal, stately, and most definitely moving on a visceral level, it inspires emotions because it is the "seat of power for the free world", and you would have to be mad to not at least respect that (regardless of your political leanings).

San Fransisco has a vitality surging through it's streets. A heady mix of creativity and philosophical classiness. The memory of so many events that have impacted our countries fate is still fresh. But there is also an air of vanity present, as if the casual observer to the city is not good enough, as if you have to absolutely adore the city to understand it.

The vibe in Chicago is one of meerly maintaining. Oh don't get me wrong, there I like it well enough. But it's time has come and gone, as the wave of offshoring industry and manufacturing nears completion.

The only city I have personally visited that can even hold a candle to Tokyo is New York City (Didn't see that coming, did you?). In spite of being, big, and dirty, and the site of so much corruption, NYC manages to keep it's head above water and moving ahead. DC might be the seat of political power, but NYC is one of the rare spots in America where cultural power is manifest (I know that some would argue the same for good ole New Orleans, but I haven't been there...).

And although I will represent Brooklyn all day long ('sup Jess, Julia and Micah?), it just doesn't compare to Tokyo. Hands down, it is the most amazing city I have ever spent time in. Maybe it's because I am a country boy, having spent most of the last decade in towns under 50,000 in size. Maybe it's just because I haven't been to Paris, Rome or London. Or perhaps it's because walking in Tokyo is like a glimpse of what the future might be like. It is absolutely amazing how clean it is, with 35 million people living in the greater Tokyo area. The train system is actually nice to ride on, and surprisingly easy, even for someone who doesn't read a lick of Kanji.

My only complaint is that the trains stop running at 12:30, just when it feels like the city is picking up. I suppose I should have some great stories to tell about what I did there to make me feel this way, but the truth is that just being there is an experience in itself. I went out, had some drinks and dinner, saw some sights the next day, and then went home. But I have never felt such an intense desire to return to a place again and again and again. You can just there will always be something new waiting for you, no matter how many times you go. Alright enough of me prattling on like this, you want pictures right? This is about all that I have for now, more on the way...

Is it information overload if you don't know what it says? This is in the Shibuya section of town. Very hip, very trendy. I stood out like a sore thumb, and not just because I am about a foot or so taller than the rest of the population.

This is Jerome, friend of a friend, who has been in Japan for 7 years and has the digs on where to go for a good dinner and drinks at 11:00 at night.

The face is the only thing remaining from a statue of Daibutsu that was damaged in the 1923 quake.

Rockabilly isn't dead here. These people were getting down in a park in Ueno just for the heck of it. Not taking money or anything. I haven't seen coifs like these in a long time.

35 million people means 35 million umbrellas when it rains. And they all want a piece of my eyes, or in some cases, my chin.

I believe I've mentioned how nice the people are, right? It's just amazing how inviting some of them can be.

And it's good to know that drag queens are pretty much the same all over the world, flamboyant as hell.

1 comment:

Amy said...

Wow, Ryan, it sounds like you are having one of those life-changing experiences. And your pictures are incredible.