This week marks my one year since I’ve moved back to Tokyo – a city where I’ve spent my entire childhood and schooling years. A decision that I made middlingly, has turned out to be one of my best years back in this metropolitan madness!
An abundant lot of memories are etched in my heart from the time I’ve spent living in Ueno since I first moved in 1999. Hence the backdrop in these pictures to come!
Ueno, also referred to as downtown Tokyo oozes with cultural sites, museums, art galleries and is unlike other downtown areas of major megalopolises – meaning, don’t expect high-rise buildings or skyscrapers here, there’s a reason why it’s called “shitamachi” literally translating to “low-city.”
“What was it like growing up in Tokyo?” is a question I’ve always been asked since I can remember. My answer, would often be like…”uhh just like yours.” Trust me, describing Tokyo to someone is a formidable task.
However, here’s my take at sharing with you some quirky, unique things which make it hard to say sayonara to, once you’ve lived in this concrete jungle!
1. Not having to tip but receiving the best service anyway
2. Never having to count your change
3. Finding everything you can possibly need from a conbini (convenience store)
4. Having blind faith in the weather forecast
5. The “time to go home, kids” jingle, everyday at 5pm
6. Mastering the art of Japanglish (for example, its “makudonarudo” not McDonalds)
7. The appreciation and celebration of the four seasons 春 🌸 夏🌞 秋 🍁 冬 ⛄
8. Punctuality is everything
9. Receiving train delay slips (chien shoumei)
10. Upmost safety and comfort
11. Minding your own business
12. Hi-tech loos
13. Side-walk vending machines everywhere
14. Perfect blend of traditional and contemporary
15. Feeling like you blend in even when you’re the only gaijin on the train
16. Pets are better dressed than you
17. Turning heads to see who honked
18. Queuing up for everything
19. Nodding all the time
20. Checking the calendar to know what garbage day it is today
Concluding this post with a little “Story time with Ria” where my faith in humanity was restored from a random night-out in Shibuya. It was in the middle of a rainy, cold night, around 3AM when I was out with my friends and my heels broke. Naturally as everything’s shut at this odd hour, my friend very kindly wandered around different conbinis looking for any kind of footwear he could find, just so I didn’t have to walk barefoot. While I waited with another friend in one of those automatic parking garages, this man comes out with his car. I urged to ask this man for help, seeing if he could drive us to the nearby 24hr shop, Don Quijote.
However, what was to come left us all in awe!
As we explain what had happened with my heels, he asks me (in Japanese), “what’s your shoe size?”
Me, in a confused state answer, “24.5cm.”
He tells us to remain here until he’s back and walks away.
Five minutes later he returns and hands me a fresh new pair of Converse shoes! Like what?! My friends and I were lost for words with his sweet gesture. Turns out, this man runs a shop in Shibuya and he got a pair from his store for me.
Completely overwhelmed and humbled by his offering, this is one night I’ll never forget!
Phew, thank god my friends were with me that night, no one who I tell this story to can wrap their heads around it!
Anyway, all I have to say is that Japanese people are the kindest and most loyal souls you can meet and my first year back has been nothing short of surprises!
🇯🇵 東京、これからもよろしく！ 🇯🇵