Visiting Japan was like a dream come true. I started taking judo lessons in 1984, and that’s when I learned to count from one to ten in Japanese. I was intrigued with languages and Japanese fascinated me. Later in high school I began studying it under the instruction of a teacher born and raised in Tokyo. In 1992, I found myself in Tokyo with a group of my classmates for an exchange trip. I was anxious when I met my host family. Would my Japanese be good enough? Would they laugh when I garbled the words?
I told them I wanted to visit Akihabara, a section of Tokyo known for electronics. I remember the days when Japan was the most prolific manufacturer of electronic goods, and in the early 1990s Sony was a highly respected brand. I was mesmerized by the glowing neon signs I wasn’t quite able to read yet. Buying something wasn’t possible because Canada and Japan didn’t have the same voltage, so it was a strictly “look but don’t buy” trip. Still, I loved taking a peek inside these wonderfully exotic stores!
Tokyo Tower resembles the Eiffel Tower in Paris, and although it hasn’t gained the kind of international acclaim as its French counterpart, I had no complaints when my hosts took me there the following night. The evening view of Tokyo was stunning from the observation deck. Tokyo Tower is painted orange, not black. To be honest, I thought it was more attractive.
One part of the city I didn’t get to see, but have heard a great deal about, is Yoyogi Park. Located next to Harajuku Station and the Meiji Shrine, the park is known for its beautiful cherry blossoms. Rebellious youths gather in the park on Sunday afternoons to blow off steam and thumb their noses at Japan’s stiff corporate culture. My itinerary was already planned by my teachers who had accompanied our group, and Yoyogi wasn’t on it.
I spent three nights in Tokyo and that wasn’t nearly enough to savor everything the city had to offer. With almost twenty million people, the city is terribly crowded and it’s expensive. But, what I like most about Tokyo is that it’s remarkably safe to walk around at any time. I will go back!