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After 48 hours, I already had so much to say about Tokyo. We’re back in Tokyo next week but this first part will focus on a overwhelmingly common theme of conformity.
You know all those friends that visit Japan and come back changed? Kind of like how Gwen Stefani has an entire album inspired by Harajuku girls. That obsession makes sense. This country has an infectious beauty that creates a space in you to hold onto forever. The cityscape - the streets, cars, buildings - are pristine. Every “downtown” in Tokyo competes with New York's Times Square. It’s an achievement I am still processing.
Respect and intention is at the core of all things and beings here. Everywhere you turn, there is an extraordinary emphasis on aesthetics. On all the subway rides, I had a lot of time to pass my superficial observations from generalizations to (alt)facts:
Everyone, EVERYONE dresses in neutrals: black, navy, greys, beige, and some white. It’s as if a Facebook event was sent to the 13 million people living in Tokyo to dress exclusively in Zara everyday for the rest of their lives - and they all hit “attending”.
High-end fashion is the most alive here. Districts a few miles of each other all have large, multi-level stores of every brand. There is a market for everything exorbitant, delicious, and beautiful.
Most ladies have eyelash extensions and men strut the freshest haircuts. This doesn’t seem like a big deal but knowing the workicide culture here, it seems unreasonable that they make time for such appearances.
Tokyo is also open container. You can buy and consume alcohol anywhere and therefore, pass out anywhere. This makes things interesting for a country that’s main cultural law is conformity and subsequently, self-restraint. During the day, you can hear yourself breathing in a packed subway but at night, the facade of control momentarily fades into total chaos. This contrast fascinates me.
We’ve been meeting up with our friend Victor who now lives in Tokyo and as he puts it: Americans drink and get rowdy but Japanese hold onto their manners, internalize their aggression, and explode. This is best explained as the “Shibuya Meltdown”. The phrase is real and totally worth visualizing, here’s an Instagram account that gathers some amazing explosions.
End Note: Until we get Japanese toilets with heated seats and a bidet, we are a second world country, as far as I’m concerned. You would think my new “hello” would be konnichiwa but it’s actually been “Hi, I don't like Trump either”.