Ohayo gozaimasu Tokyo

19 Jun

Run for the Money

Here I find myself in the heart of one of the biggest and fastest cities on the planet.  Tokyo is a seemingly endless expanse of high-rise buildings and bright lights, with a large population dressed and ready for business.  Granted I’m staying near the very center of this metropolis in the Kanda District where people rush from place to place, eat in tiny restaurants while standing up, and some even sleep – if at all – in little capsules in the wall.  Last night just for the experience I stayed in a Capsule Inn, the very model of hotel efficiency:

Capsule Wall

Basically, there are common facilities like showers and bathrooms (complete with all the disposable amenities you could dream of) and what you rent out is a little capsule room – stacked up and just big enough to lie down in.  The floor of the capsule is a bed, and it has a little TV and radio for your plugged-in enjoyment.  These places are made for businessmen who work late and miss the train home, or just need a place to catch a few winks near their workplace.  It was actually quite comfortable, though not for the claustrophobic.

The interesting thing I’ve noticed here is the way that such a hustle-bustle, work-oriented business culture can coexist with a very traditional, ancient society.  You can be walking along rubbernecking at all the skyscrapers, feeling like you’re in downtown Manhattan, when you stumble across a tiny little Shinto shrine nestled amongst the glass and steel.

Nestled Shrine

It really makes you appreciate the adaptability of this culture, and provides a striking example of just how far a society can evolve.

It is an honor to be here.

I’ve come to Japan as part of a summer-long trip – partly a program through the University of Oregon to study the zen gardens of Kyoto, partly intending to study the methods of Natural Farming as developed by Masanobu Fukuoka, by seeking out its current practitioners and experiencing life on their farms.  I’m just in Tokyo for a couple days en route to Kyoto, where I’ll be for the next 5 weeks visiting gardens, designing for the city of Kyoto, and learning the art of watercolor.  Then things will be a bit more free-form – some farm travel, hiking of ancient mountain pilgrimage trails, perhaps studying a little ikebana at a traditional art school.  I’m incredibly excited to have such an opportunity as this – this culture has so much to teach! – and I plan to make the most of it.  Check back if you’re interested, as this is what I’ll be posting about for the next couple of months.

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