When in Tokyo

by shz

I have survived Tokyo. 

But I’m having a bit of trouble to write about my whole experience and adventure – because I don’t know where to start! Where do I start really? The part where it is the cleanest city in the world with no rubbish bins at sight? Or the part where everybody else seems like a robot, greeting, bowing the same way and even on the busiest street of Ginza, could walk in the right lanes without bumping onto each other? Or even their construction workers look so bloody cool in their tobi pants and ninja shoes?

Amer told me, that his friend told him, the Japanese got something right. Its actually amazing how they got things right. Even Kaoru couldn’t explain it. I wasn’t there long enough to understand it, apart from all the Japanese disciplined, polite and respectful nature we all kept hearing about, I sensed that it has got something to do with their attributes of reminding each other.

I was staying at this fantastic ryokan, which is a traditional Japanese house with paper walls and doors. By the way, it wasn’t exactly the most brilliant decision I’ve ever made in my travels, considering it was in winter and I had a baby with me.

Little view from our room.

Whenever I put on a Barney song to shut Daisy up, one of these Japs will ask me to keep it down, even though the volume was already at the lowest. And when I forgot to close the living room’s door, immediately they said, “Please be careful and don’t forget to close the door. We use the heater here and it will get cold.” There was also one time when I was about to bring a butter knife into the room and they were like, “If you want to eat please do it in the kitchen.” Well, that one was OK because I intended to eat those nasi impits in the room. Hahaha. I could easily be offended by these strict rules and constant reminders as if I was the guest from hell, but I guess in a foreign land its only a logical to be flexible so that you can adjust easily to the culture. I assume they probably do that a lot to each other, hence the fantastic city I think all big cities should take an example from. I mean, urban designers, architects or whoever who can design and decide how a city should be can do all they want, but if the people inhabiting doesn’t follow, it doesn’t really bring much meaning to it. Just to make sure their modern city works, they have this sign all over the place:

Do not I said!

Tokyo is like a heaven for someone who is so gay about architecture like me. They seem to disregard the context when it comes to individual buildings, but as a whole the area, it still looks serene and everything is in harmony. There could be a strikingly designed Prada boutique next to a house, or in a neighborhood with housings, the most unexpected thing you can imagine. It feels like Tokyo opens to new ideas, that every boutique or shop or house has its own stories, its own brief, its own personality and uniqueness. I swear, Tokyo gave me a lot of orgasms – not sexually, but architecturally. Seems like every few steps is just another sheer intense excitement of seeing another great designed building. All of star architects that I read and drooled on like Ando, Piano, Herzog & De Meuron, Ito, and many more are gathered in Omotesando Hills, Ginza and Ayoama. There could be the most modern, simplified box next to a shrine for example, just like an Ando’s building in Omotesando Hill. You should understand that I spent most of my architectural career so far in UK, where everything is restricted to its context and everything you design, even if you’re a star architect, ended up the same or similar to the building next to yours, which quite honestly could be so dauntingly and discouragingly B.O.R.I.N.G. Here in Tokyo, they did it at their best, expressed the way they wanted and the Tokyoites embraced it!

Juxtaposition yo! Context who??

Enough architecture! As I wrote previously, this trip was more fulfilling and meaningful because I got to meet Kaoru again!

Say hello to Kaoru Tada!

Honestly it was a bit like the old times in Oxford. Conversing with her in my broken English, telling her how lucky she is got to call Japan her homeland. She told me how her Spanish-British fiance proposed in the ferris wheel and spent the whole time hating her for getting to live in Kensington once she’s back in London. She was like, “It is sooo central neee… more central than Paddington neee..” *LOL*. That was some personal joke, but yeah Kaoru, you won’t get any central than that! On the second night, she cooked her famous okonomiyaki, and it was delicious as ever!

Okonomiyaki party!

Finely decorated okonomiyaki by me.

And also one thing I survived was venturing Tokyo in Xplory. This was one of the thing I feared most, but I braved myself with it. Honestly, I wouldn’t be able to travel conveniently without it. People kept telling me to bring the umbrella stroller but I really didn’t want to spend another RM400-500 just to use for 6 days! Plus, with an Xplory, Daisy could sleep, drink, high-chaired it in restaurants and went on escalators without having to take her off. Plus, it sort of became my trolley, so I didn’t have to carry anything and dumped all of Daisy’s things and my shoppings into the large bag. Most of the stations have elevators and if not, I had few strong, helpful hands to lift up for few steps. Even when we were stucked in a peak hour, all we had to do was said “Sumimasen!” loud and clearly and they would make rooms for you to get out. I had the hardest time Googling Stokke Xplory in Tokyo, trying to find out whether anyone has ever experienced it. So now I’m saying, not necessarily an Xplory, any strollers – bring it! It will save your travel.

On escalators

Drinking on the go

Drinking on the train

Sleeping in bustling Harajuku

All in all travelling in Tokyo was such an experience. And it became an adventure when you bring your baby along. I’m so glad Daisy didn’t catch a cold and seemed to be enjoying herself throughout the trip. But I personally feel it would’ve been difficult for us if Kaoru and Fakhrul’s old friend from high school, Eja, who also happens to be a Tokyoite, wasn’t around. On our first day, we decided to go to Asakusa, which was the nearest attraction from where we were staying. None of us really studied the map except from getting there with the Metro. When we arrived, we didn’t come out from the right exit and I went to try my luck and asked this middle aged lady who happened to be next to me. I didn’t even ask any questions, I just showed her this famous shrine we were trying to get to from the Lonely Planet book and oh my God – she looked terrified! She sort of waved her hand saying no, assuming trying to tell me she doesn’t speak English and ran off! I didn’t really expect her to give me a lengthy explanation, just point her finger north or south would’ve been suffice.  I was like oh, OK. We were sooo gonna get lost! Communication was the hardest. Trying to tell the taxi driver to turn the heater off was also such a struggle. We had to find the button ourselves. So really, I’m so thankful Kaoru came down from Nagoya to join us and Eja, who honestly is the nicest guy ever, for someone we just met. Not even he paid for our lunches, he even dropped by our hotel after work on the last night.

Tokyo went on like a dream – quick and wonderful. It will be a dream to step foot there again. I usually don’t really wanna go to the same place twice, but I think for Tokyo, it becomes an exception. And if you’re wondering about the photos – wait for it. It isn’t exactly easy to filter and edit photos from a dream. But meanwhile, you can enjoy this video of my little snowgirl moving to Edith Piaf:

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