Less lost in translation

The compendium of snapshots Tokyo that I’ve captured on camera is by no means exhaustive. Flying solo compounds this feel. Alarmingly, the packed streets of neon lights and the relentless consumer lifestyle look very similar in the few wards of Tokyo that I’ve visited: Shinjuku, Shibuya, Asakusa, Akihabara, Ueno, Ginza compete for business, where streets begin to look ugly and characterless. These places are very much living paradoxes: free-spending lifestyles and effusive hospitality – even the toilets have heated seats and buttons to aid bottom-washing – provide a strong veneer of civilisation underneath a web of complex social hierarchy governing these behaviours that I don’t quite ever understand.

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It was this consideration that made me initially quite adamant about leaving the city again for yet another day trip to Nikko, only to be put off by a total of 4 hours in a train when yet another long journey awaited me to Takayama on Monday.

So Sunday was grudgingly spent in Tokyo. Ueno Park was the first stop at 9am, famous for its avenues of blooming cherry blossoms in April, and also for being place of residence to the homeless. But Ueno is also a site of many museums and on a whim, I queued up for a general exhibition ticket to the Tokyo National Museum, only to have a lovely old woman tap me on the shoulder and hand me an access ticket to all exhibitions for free.

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Old ladies were my treat for the day it seemed. A few stops by the Tokyo Metro away from where I stay is Asakusa, a ward known for its convivial and immensely festive atmosphere because of its temples and old district. Bustling with crowds rushing to get into the temple, my reprieve was found in a quaint tempura restaurant with cheery but friendly old ladies who laughed at my attempt to order Ebi Tempura soba in soup.

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Shibuya and Akihabara were next but the highlight was a hidden enslave closer to Ueno – a small but increasingly crowded cat cafe. In a space where moggies were on show, I couldn’t help feel sorry for them as they were disturbed from all sides by humans prodding them. Some had learned to sleep through the asinine behaviour of some guests. I left after 15 minutes, having petted them as much as I could, anxious to escape the influx of young couples waiting to fawn over the creatures.

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