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Published: February 8th 2015
Our record was 16. It became something of a game after a while. Riding on any of Tokyo's train systems, we would count the number of passengers on the opposite side who were engrossed in their particular device of choice.
It's a modern day syndrome of the west, people strolling around with a phone permanently clasped in their palm. Tokyo has taken the concept to a new dimension with locals of all ages sporting devices that have morphed into something appearing to be surgically attached to the hand. Tokyo is a veritable Planet of the Apps.
This phenomenon is a metaphor for the techno society that is Tokyo. In the streets, neon is king. The colours, flashing lights and animated, uniformed efficiency made us feel like an extra in an Astro Boy cartoon.
This post 21st century urban environment is still pitted with touches of Japanese tradition and these sanctuaries are portals into a culture dating back Millenia. Such historical influences, however, are struggling to keep their heads above water. With world domination of the physical order off the agenda for 70 odd years now, Japan seems bent on showing the rest of the planet how to evolve
techno-wise. Tradition just may be seen as a sacrificial lamb.
That's not to suggest that Tokyo is barren. The city is still an assault on the senses, just not all of the senses. Sights and sounds? Forget it. In a city of around 14 million, give or take, Tokyo is remarkably quiet. You will never hear a car horn and the good citizens speak in the hushed tones of discordant voices that sound as if they have overdosed on helium. It's also so damn clean that earthy odours, in fact any odour, is an alien concept.
And the people themselves. Unleashing my broadest brush - polite, respectful, humble and disciplined to a fault. One young lady was almost in tears when she had to apologetically inform me that the Japan Photographic Museum was; "solly, crosed for lenovations." I swear she would have committed hari kari had I demanded so for failing in her duty to please tourists.
In order to push the reset button, it's easy to peel back a few onion layers and unveil a Tokyo where everything is weighted differently. Just rise early and delve into the organised mayhem of the Tsukiji Fish Market.Blurring the
Tradition meets 21st Century
Geisha on her favourite app.
lines between market and tourist attraction, the Tsukiji Fish Market is a museum that wholesales seafood. Don't bother ironing your best pair of jeans for this one and forget the aforementioned political niceties of Tokyo's gentry. It may be a novelty attraction but we tourists are at best tolerated. This is no longer a cartoon but warts n'all reality TV where the workers are way too much flesh and blood to fake formalities. Here, going about the business of being productive is ceremony.
How this translates is - strap yourself in, keep your eyes mobile and watch your step lest you end up to your armpits in a pile of something resembling the Creature from the Black Lagoon with a name you should only ever attempt to pronounce with a few drinks under the belt.
The Tsukiji Fish Market is also a crash course in Japan's love affair with seafood. This culinary addiction hits the scales at around 2,500 tonnes of seafood passing through daily. And all of it so fresh that if you added a hit of water everything could still make a swim for it. Such daunting figures sound untenable for the long term health of
the oceans' populations and you ponder how long any underwater species can avoid extinction.
The outer fringes of the market also support a small tourist merchandising operation where the tack runs just as deep as the ocean. Always wanted a sushi t-shirt and didn't know where to find it? Voila!
And that was our Tokyo. 4 nights, 3 days and we had tapped into the cornerstones of the Japanese psyche. HA! Look, I still don't have an inkling what makes Tokyo tick and what they in fact think of us but it sure was fun taking a peek.
SSSHHH! I hear your collective groans and yes it's a cheap trick. Gimme a break. It's been some time since I regressed to the outhouse for material and Japanese toilets demand commentary. Follow this CV:
- heated seats
- a pre-emptive flush the moment your derrière hits the seat just in case of impending disasters
- atmospheric piped music
- warm water bidet
- clinically sterile
What's not to love? The blushing bride is normally averse to anything resembling a public bathroom. And let's face it, most experiences have been
Eye on Tokyo
hilarious in a "this could be disastrous" kind of way. She will cross the legs, flex the glutes and anything else south of the border just to hang on til home base. Not in Tokyo. I can't keep her away from the things. Whilst I look forward to the impending teriyaki, she counts the steps until the next public dunny. Quote; "I like to go on all the rides".
Reason enough alone to love Japan.
More images at www.colvinyeates.zenfolio.com
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