I spent my Saturday running around Tokyo, hitting up as many spots as I could in my 6-8 hours of being a tourist.
I’ve been to Tokyo before, but was blown away by how amazing I found the city. Given that I now live in Hong Kong, I expected to find a lot of similarities between the two, which I did, but the differences were far more interesting. There’s a certain sense of polish that comes with the insanely high standard of living in the city.
In someways, HK has a little more “grit” to it. Whether that’s because of the recent social unrest or the extreme wealth gap is up for discussion, but it does feel like there’s a general sentiment of content in Tokyo, despite how much the yen has fallen compared to the dollar. Of course, that’s good news for American tourists venturing to Japan, or really any other country in Asia right now.
Having grown up in San Diego, it was also really nice to be lost in a city that seems to go on forever. Hong Kong can feel a little small some times because of the urban density. It was nice to venture up to the observation level of the Tokyo Government Offices and take in the view of urban sprawl with Mt. Fuji in the background.
For the same reason, I was equally in awe when I somehow, magically didn’t get lost on the labyrinthine subway.
I was also surprised by how much of my Japanese I retained! I never formally studied the language so I expected that I lost it entirely, but that was not the case! If anything, my “osmosis technique” of learning Japanese (re: watching a lot of J-Dramas when I was “reading” for AP US History) lead to a much higher retention rate than my Mandarin, which I studied formally for five years.* But the brief little “すみません” and “ありがとうございます” was enough to thoroughly confuse shopkeepers. As soon as they asked me a question that wasn’t in my limited phrase bank, I defaulted to English which resulted in looks like this –>
Nevertheless, I was still proud of myself for being able to ask: “すみません, 写真は大丈夫ですか?” Not grammatically perfect, but semantically functional.
Although it was short, I am already antsy to get back to Japan. If anything, this short 48-49 hour trip has me daydreaming/planning more trips, perhaps to Osaka and Kyoto next time.
*At some point I will write something about some new opinions regarding language learning, after observing my own struggle with Cantonese and my students’ with English.