Friday, 4 October 2013

Getting to know you Tokyo

Everyday became a lesson.  I was the embodiment of a cliched westerner in Japan. How to bow, when to remove your shoes, when it's okay to eat, how to push onto a crammed subway carriage, when to let others through, how to refuse politely without saying 'no', when to smile, when to walk, how to drink tea, how not to tip, when to crouch, when to tiptoe, how to give thanks, how to live silently in a tiny paper room.

The places I gained perspective were on the rooftops and terraces, observation decks and viewing towers of Tokyo's high rises. Up there, everything seemed manageable. The view from above gave a vantage point of confidence, I could handle and navigate the vast city from there with hawks eye precision. Ground level contact was more challenging. The subway only made a hint of sense to me by the time I left. The colour codes, over-under ground, private, public, not on the map, on the map lines began to fox me less by day ten. My feet didn't stop from Roppongi Hills to Omotesando, gallery to department store to shrine. The etiquette rules never far from my consciousness. My clumsiness never far from a locals eye.

I only clung once, to the gigantic Mama spider of Louise Bourgeois, for momentary reassurance on a rainy afternoon.  Like the start of any new relationship, there can be moments laced with shear terror at the idea of the unknown.