LUC8K’s fearless traveler, Sophie, flew into Narita Airport and took the train to Tokyo to immediately discover that she was lost and confused.
It is a common occurrence. Despite being a highly developed country, it is also one of the most culturally isolated places in the world. Travel writer Paul Theroux once wrote: “It wasn’t possible for a foreigner in Japan to feel anything but an alien species, not just different but backward, a clumsy yokel from the colorful but decrepit past.”
Sophie, being pragmatic, regarded her bewilderment as the price of being in Japan
Besides a 15-foot-tall giraffe that flies in airplanes, rides in trains, and visits the most populous cities along with the most deserted places in the world is used to being seen as different … and special.
Sophie arrived at the ultra-sleek, ultra-modern and ultra-luxurious Aman Tokyo Hotel and immediately went into her customized leather business cardholder where she exchanged business cards with several startled staff members. There’s a formality in exchanging business cards in Asia that is elevated to an art form in Japan. The business card font should face the receiver so he or she can immediately read it. The receiver should take the business card with both hands as well. It’s also good form to read the business card carefully and then acknowledge the importance of the person’s job title, often with a simple nod of the head.
After several minutes of exchanging business cards Sophie put away her business cardholder and was led to her room
Opening the electronic shades she gazed upon a magnificent view. A skyline of tall buildings spread out as far as the eye can see. Nearly all of the buildings had helicopter landing pads on the roofs. Tokyo is the center of the world’s most populous metropolitan area with 37.8 million people and the world’s largest urban economy.
Sophie could have spent her entire time in Tokyo in this magnificent hotel room looking at the view. But there was a lot to see in a short amount of time and she quickly went outside to take a walk to the Imperial Palace East Gardens nearby. It’s a rare place in this highly congested city where gardens and birds, small lakes and brooks exist. It’s a rare peaceful respite in this city and is historically important as it contained the interior defense for the Edo Castle and dates back to the 15th century. Nearby is the current home of the Emperor of Japan.
She followed this with a spiritual quest to the Sensoji Buddhist Temple to pray quietly, which includes a hands cleansing ceremony with water.
This was followed by lunch at Tokyo Shiba Tofuya Ukai, a traditional tofu restaurant where everything on the eight-course fixed menu has soy in many forms—even tofu in soy milk. The restaurant is in a 150-year-old wooden house with a maze of individual rooms with low ceilings that was a challenge for Sophie to maneuver. Traditional Japanese gardens surround the building that includes Koi fish in ponds. Sophie loved everything about the restaurant.
Right outside the building is the Tokyo Tower, a communications and observation tower modeled after the Eiffel Tower that is the second highest structure in a city filled with tall structures.
Next stop was shopping in the Ginza area and for this she exchanged her business cardholder for the leather Shopper. Her first stop was the architecturally significant flagship store of Hermès in Japan store where she picked up a scarf followed by a trip to the massive Matsuya Ginza department store where she picked up a number of items that fit easily into her leather Shopper.
Following her shopping tour she returned to the hotel spa, where she had a massage and finished her stay with traditional Japanese bath.
At the hotel restaurant overlooking this vast, dense city at night, Sophie realizes that there’s so much more to learn. Someday she will return.