Tokyo

It is easy in the world to live after the world’s opinion;

it is easy in solitude to live after our own;

but the great man is he who in the midst of the crowd

keeps with perfect sweetness the independence of solitude.

- Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Self-Reliance” (via Lili)

 


Tokyo is the familiar and the unexpected. 

It is the harmonious pairing of extremes – the quiet juxtaposition of ramen and pornography, the retention of tradition and liberation of lingerie, the reunion of memory and reality, the conservative presentation of thigh-high stiletto boots, leather mini-skirts, circle lenses, and spiked blonde hair. 

Tokyo is individually-packaged identical strawberries that are too perfect to eat.

 

Tokyo was not part of the original plan.

Best ramen of my life.

I was on the verge of booking the tickets for my Euro-Asia trip when I received the email. An old door opened where another had closed, and the familiarity of the door beckoned to me. Here was a return to something I once knew, something that was now veiled in a mystery that allured me.

I checked – the marginally higher ticket prices sealed the deal – and Tokyo became an addendum, a question mark that held more uncertainties than answers.

 

Of all the cities I visited, Tokyo was the only one for which I did not develop an itinerary. 

Of all the cities I visited, Tokyo is the one I should have researched most.

 

When I arrived at Narita International Airport, I spent nearly five minutes of complete confusion with a customs official who repeated a Japanese word over and over and attempted to communicate with gestures at my purse and stamping motions before I realized: He’s asking for my passport.

I had never been to a country where airport staff did not know how to say “passport” in English. 

This discovery was quickly followed by the realization that many Japanese people barely know how to say anything in English, and will repeat the same words in Japanese as if somehow the repetition will magically translate into English. [Americans do this too].

It was actually refreshing to finally visit a non-tourist friendly country that is, first and foremost, a country for its people

Venice (my least favorite city on this trip) revolves around tourists and tourist-hounding merchants who reside in the city solely to entice people to purchase wares, most of which aren’t even manufactured in Venice. 

But Tokyo – Tokyo is a city where you become the unremarkable “other” and people don’t really give a damn whether you approve, complain, come, go, stay, etc. – so they don’t bother to solicit you, engage you, include you, impress you. 

And yet, you are still impressed. 

Six months in Rwanda have transformed your smart phone into a status symbol, your miniature netbook into a piece of advanced technology, and most of your personal possessions into rare gems. 

Tokyo is a role reversal. 

All of a sudden, you are the one to gape. You marvel at the perfected efficiency and design. You stare quizzically at household contraptions that you don’t understand, and when the meaning becomes clear you say “Aha!” and wonder why they don’t sell more of these outside Japan. You smile at the cuteness factor of every sign and display. You spent extra minutes on the toilet so you can play with all the buttons. 

But what makes your eyes open widest are…

 

THE CLOTHES.

 

MURSE ALERT!!

Forget Milan. Forget Paris. 

I swear Tokyo is the fashion capital of the world. 

At Galeries Lafayette in Paris, you see beautiful and impeccably well-dressed women everywhere. But they all seem to adhere to the same formulas, the same high-end designer brands. Yes, the pairing and layering and combining is important; but it’s honestly hard to go wrong with clothes that are already mini-perfected creations. 

Same goes for Milan. 

But I’ve never seen anything like the style in Tokyo. 

For one thing, there’s no formula. 

There are a disproportionately high number of well-dressed people in Tokyo and all of them seem to have a uniquely perfected style. You can’t really identify brands from what they wear, and it is never so much about the individual items so much as how the colors and textures and shapes are mixed and matched into an aesthetically-wowing result. 

Shopping on Harajuku Street and people-watching on the subways and in ramen shops was like watching a live fashion show.

 

 

I loved Tokyo for its liberation of style, the freedom for people to wear whatever they want without social stigma and judgment, the culture’s encouragement of creativity and eccentricity. 

However, as captivated as I was by the fashion around me, I knew that these expressions were adapted to the unique character of each individual. I could certainly not pull off studded leather necklaces, nor would I feel comfortable wearing ginormous pink bows in my hair.

 

Tokyo encouraged me to embrace self-expression and individuality.

But it taught me to first know myself.

For a long time, I gravitated toward clothing that I thought I should desire.

When I was young, I dressed like everybody else.

I wore A&F capris that shortened my legs, I applied VS eyeshadow that bruised my eyes, I squeezed myself into too-tight dresses that made it impossible to breathe. I wanted a Prince Charming that was tall, handsome, rich, brave, kind, and funny.  

As I grew older, I started to invest in clothing because of its reputation. Instead of finding clothing that suited my body, I learned to value brands because of their association with high-quality, status, wealth, or success.

I would purchase the navy-blue Theory suit or the perfect pair of Seven jeans, I would date the accomplished model or the professional athlete, and I would feel delighted because I had snagged a designer item in my size at 70% off. “How could I not buy it?” or “Why would I not date him?” became the logic, and I’d congratulate myself, “What a steal!” 

But when the purchases looked awful and the relationships fell apart, instead of accepting that the clothing wasn’t designed for me, I’d critique myself and try to find ways to force it to work.

Why don’t I have longer legs? Why aren’t my eyelids bigger? Why can’t I shrink my stomach?

Why don’t I like to watch Dexter? Why can’t I cook? Why do I act so awkward when I’m around his friends?

 

 Why am I not good enough? 

And then I would make excuses to keep trying.

 

Maybe I should lose weight.

Maybe I should try pairing it with something else.

Maybe I should call more often.

Maybe I should call less often.

Maybe I should make more female friends.

Maybe I should take cooking lessons.

Maybe I should give him space.

 

I subscribed to a certain logic that “If it’s a designer item and it doesn’t work, then there must be something wrong with me.” I would keep clothing because I thought it must work somehow, I would continue a relationship because I felt that if I invested enough time or effort it would eventually work out.

 

Well, turns out clothing doesn’t work that way.

And people don’t work that way either.

 

I am still learning about myself. 

But self-knowledge is helping me to better understand my interactions with other people and to accept that healthy relationships cannot be rationalized or forced. I am learning that love and value and acceptance do not have to come from a single source.

 

I wanted it to work. 

For a long time, I tried to make sense of it all. 

But now that I know myself better, I realize that it does not have to make sense. If it is meant to work, it will work. And if it doesn’t, that does not mean that there is a problem with you or me, or you and me, but perhaps we both have yet to find a better match. 

Thank you for showing me this beautiful city – I am excited to see what time will bring for us both. 

V.v.V

 

55 Comments

  1. Hugo
    Posted March 16, 2012 at 3:39 am | Permalink

    Beautiful photos and great article, interestingly written. Tokyo really is a city of contrasts, a very exciting, sometimes very odd, place to live. True, Tokyo is very much a place for the locals rather than for tourists, but that does make it worth staying for a while. Enjoy!

  2. Cycling Holidays In Tuscany
    Posted March 28, 2012 at 8:53 am | Permalink

    I thoroughly enjoyed this article and looking at your photo’s. I have never been to Japan but have seen many programs on it. Tokyo appeals to me as I will be sampling a culture I have never experienced.

  3. Eufrat
    Posted April 3, 2012 at 8:15 am | Permalink

    People have great time out in the world. I wish to visit Tokyo some day.

  4. sushi class by kei
    Posted April 4, 2012 at 2:38 pm | Permalink

    I miss Tokyo, as Japanese I love my curture, and It is so much fun traveling around the city!

  5. Bangalore Web Design
    Posted April 5, 2012 at 7:32 am | Permalink

    I appreciate Japan on it’s quick comeback. Tokyo is one of the most technically advanced cities.

  6. wisata indonesia
    Posted April 7, 2012 at 1:24 am | Permalink

    i think tokyo is a combination of modern and traditional city

    and i think Lydia is cute too
    nicee picture, i like the fingers toy

  7. Kelly@houston bankruptcy attorney
    Posted April 19, 2012 at 2:19 pm | Permalink

    Tokyo is one of the best city ever.I’ve been there last year and i really enjoy their fashion style :)

  8. Nick
    Posted April 23, 2012 at 8:10 pm | Permalink

    I love Tokyo, even though I was there only for few days… I should probably go again.

    Very interesting insights. Thanks for sharing a bit of YOU.

  9. raja wisata
    Posted April 25, 2012 at 12:37 pm | Permalink

    tokyo is great choise for all… tank’s for you sharing the travel place. i want to go tokyo too…… :D :D

  10. Pompa San
    Posted April 27, 2012 at 6:45 am | Permalink

    Indeed Tokyo is great, food, buildings, electronics. Do not forget Kyoto, you will find there a piece of the old Japan in Uji, Arashiyama, and many other places.

  11. Kelly
    Posted April 30, 2012 at 10:35 am | Permalink

    I’ve always wanted to go to Tokyo and now even more so! Thanks for sharing this with us.

  12. Sandy Larson
    Posted May 23, 2012 at 3:29 am | Permalink

    Thanks for sharing!I’m happy to know that you’ve known yourself better and I agree with you that in looking for good things it doesn’t need to appear good always..

  13. Streetwear
    Posted May 24, 2012 at 2:16 am | Permalink

    I want to go to Tokyo, because there is a lot of streetwear design that I want to wear and there is more fashion in Tokyo.

  14. EmpressCouture
    Posted June 5, 2012 at 5:30 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for your great article on Tokyo! Keep writing more great posts!

  15. Sales Associate Resume
    Posted June 10, 2012 at 5:58 am | Permalink

    All of a sudden I’m hungry for some ramen. And I agree, the Japanese have a real keen sense of style.

  16. Mobile Application Development
    Posted June 15, 2012 at 6:39 am | Permalink

    Tokyo is one of the best city ever.I’ve been there last year and i really enjoy their fashion style

  17. Mai Cường
    Posted June 30, 2012 at 2:48 am | Permalink

    Japan is full of interesting and unexpected

  18. how to make up with ex
    Posted July 2, 2012 at 1:26 pm | Permalink

    I love to go visit Tokyo this year, and this post was interesting to read!

  19. domain registrar
    Posted July 4, 2012 at 1:58 pm | Permalink

    One of the places that i’m willing to visit is Tokyo, Japan. Thanks for sharing this blog, the more i read it, the more i wanted to go there! awesome place!

  20. Schwinn Prelude Review
    Posted July 13, 2012 at 8:47 pm | Permalink

    I went to Tokyo last year and i must say the experience was amazing. As i am a road cycling freak. SO with my Schwinn prelude, riding on the streets of Tokyo was something special. It is a highly crowded city with lovable people and awesome food. One should definitely try the shark sushi.

  21. Wally
    Posted July 22, 2012 at 2:37 am | Permalink

    Thanks for sharing these beautiful pictures and this article. Japan is definitely one place that I would to visit some day

  22. Bodygroom
    Posted July 25, 2012 at 9:47 pm | Permalink

    I’m virtually going places whenever I read your post. Hope I can travel too like you. Just now, it seems I just visited Tokyo.

  23. endang kusman
    Posted August 2, 2012 at 2:15 pm | Permalink

    A very complete post. I like instant noodle dishes such as in Indonesia.

  24. Fashionable Maternity Clothes
    Posted August 6, 2012 at 7:00 pm | Permalink

    This post made me so jealous! I love your pictures and you told a great story. Tokyo is in the top 3 of my most-desired locations to visit right now. I’ve been to Thailand on a honeymoon, and that was gorgeous, but Tokyo is all about the style! I can’t wait to get there someday. Thanks for posting this.

  25. Scholarships in Utah
    Posted August 19, 2012 at 9:42 pm | Permalink

    Tokio seems a fascinating place to stdy for a few months.

  26. Gemstones
    Posted August 31, 2012 at 9:17 pm | Permalink

    Great post, thanks for sharing. Some fantastic pics!!

  27. Lynda
    Posted September 13, 2012 at 7:23 pm | Permalink

    People have great time out in the world. I wish to visit Tokyo and some other famous places in Japan some day.

  28. Daniel
    Posted September 17, 2012 at 8:44 am | Permalink

    Thank you for your interesting sharing. I love japan (that’s why i learn japanesse language ^^), and i hope i can go to Tokyo and Sapporo someday.

  29. To Asia
    Posted September 21, 2012 at 3:20 am | Permalink

    We plan on writing a travel guide to Japan this year and your article popped up to be our first piece of online research, thanks, very useful.

  30. WEB DESIGNS
    Posted September 28, 2012 at 9:38 am | Permalink

    I am so excited to see your blog nice pis you updated my mouth filled with water. it make me hungry…,

  31. Dubai Classifieds
    Posted October 4, 2012 at 12:22 pm | Permalink

    It is great article with pictures.

  32. best deal travel
    Posted October 4, 2012 at 2:46 pm | Permalink

    I find Tokyo the most expensive city

  33. clark hotels
    Posted October 16, 2012 at 8:55 am | Permalink

    Tokyo is one of the best cities in Asia

  34. Website Designing
    Posted October 31, 2012 at 6:46 am | Permalink

    Really nice photograph and article. I want to visit tokyo to see your photograph. I visit tokyo on internet, I found many website related to this. Thanks for everything.

  35. web design company
    Posted November 6, 2012 at 12:13 pm | Permalink

    The trips to Tokyo is always the best for me as it really has some unexpectations and wonderful new updates.

  36. Pompa san
    Posted February 6, 2013 at 7:22 am | Permalink

    Do not forget another famous ancient town Kyoto. And Osaka and Yokohama are quite great. The aquarium of Osaka is one of the best in the world.

  37. Christopher Dziak
    Posted April 8, 2013 at 2:45 am | Permalink

    Great post. The pictures and your journey (of self-discovery) is illuminating. I hope to one day visit Tokyo and experience the culture in the same way you have. The lack of planning may have made your trip better in that you probably had experiences that you would not have had otherwise.

  38. Inlingua Bangalore
    Posted April 18, 2013 at 12:20 pm | Permalink

    Nice article with beautiful photos..Tokyo is one of the beautiful place for tourist..Thanks for posting..

  39. Divine Me Boutique
    Posted June 4, 2013 at 4:29 pm | Permalink

    I wish to visit Tokyo some day.

  40. alanda
    Posted June 15, 2013 at 12:08 am | Permalink

    Very beautiful photos; I’m totally jealous. Hopefully, I will find enough time to take a vacation there someday *sigh*.

  41. Massimiliano
    Posted June 20, 2013 at 9:55 am | Permalink

    Very beautiful picture !I have a splendid house in Florence and I do exchange house with people living in Tokyo. I now have many friends that speak to me in Tokyo. The most beautiful city in the world after Florence :)

  42. Johnny
    Posted June 25, 2013 at 9:12 pm | Permalink

    Really enjoyed reading through all this and next season I hope to visit Tokyo.

  43. lace lingerie
    Posted June 27, 2013 at 4:39 pm | Permalink

    yummy ramen..

  44. holiday deals thailand
    Posted June 28, 2013 at 6:34 am | Permalink

    I dream to have a vacation in Tokyo too because of Japan has wonderful combinations of the high technology and the unique traditional & culture.

  45. holiday deals thailand
    Posted June 28, 2013 at 6:37 am | Permalink

    I dream to have a vacation in Tokyo too because of Japan has wonderful combinations of the high technology and the unique traditional & culture. The japanese food is also well-known and delicious, the products are in nice and cute wrap.

  46. Clikinn Pakistan
    Posted June 28, 2013 at 6:38 pm | Permalink

    Tokyo is one of the best and most expensive city, I always liked it very much. The article and photos are very fascinating for tourists. People now puts these photos in their ads on free classified ads for tourist companies.

  47. Web Designing Company Mohali
    Posted July 1, 2013 at 10:21 am | Permalink

    Nice post! i want to visit Tokyo some days.

  48. That's It! Creative Services
    Posted July 3, 2013 at 5:34 pm | Permalink

    I have always wanted to go to Tokyo or anywhere in Japan for that matter. Beautiful pictures by the way!

  49. Designbeep
    Posted July 8, 2013 at 5:44 pm | Permalink

    I’ve been in Tokyo 3 years ago,well, to be honest i traveled many big cities but Tokyo is in the first place that i liked most.

  50. web tasarım
    Posted July 29, 2013 at 1:44 am | Permalink

    I’m virtually going places whenever I read your post. Hope I can travel too like you. Just now, it seems I just visited Tokyo.

  51. Craig Smith
    Posted August 17, 2013 at 6:09 pm | Permalink

    I agree, you capture the events or places very nicely. And I feel like I am right there with you. Great post!

  52. Bo
    Posted August 18, 2013 at 4:12 pm | Permalink

    Asian streetwear is the most creative nowdays.

  53. Small Busin
    Posted August 25, 2013 at 9:04 pm | Permalink

    Brilliantly unique and interesting. I’ve yet to visit japan but would love to go, the art culture, food and quirkiness is so appealing and creative. I very much like to get inspiration form new people and places in my design work. Blogs like your allow me to visit distant places like Tokyo without going myself.

  54. Mark
    Posted September 21, 2013 at 7:47 pm | Permalink

    Thoughtful and interesting article Lydia. I will be visiting Tokyo, and other parts of Japan, early next year, and I’m excited to, not only sit on the toilet for a few extra minutes, but to enjoy the food and people watch. I can’t wait to visit Tokyo!

  55. mushtaq travel
    Posted October 5, 2013 at 7:26 pm | Permalink

    I had an interesting and challenging time in Tokyo an absolutely amazing place, very clean, nice people, great transport system. Probably one of the best places in the far east.

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