Observations from Tokyo

We had a Japanese breakfast at Miyuki,
The restaurant overlooking the Japanese garden
Of the Four Seasons hotel we are staying in.

It was a romantic choice…
You see…We stayed here years ago
Two years after we got married.

My breakfast had 11 small and tasty colorful dishes on it.
It was all arranged like an elaborate art piece,
I like eating art…

We visited a small museum in Harajuku,
That was dedicated to historical paintings on bamboo fans.
We saw all the different styles,
Covering hundreds of years
Each influenced by the different schools of art
that were popular in those times.

We had to change our shoes to slippers
When we entered the museum.
I walked by those delicate fans,
Encased in glass,
And admired the beauty of the original paintings on them.

In the back of my mind,
A voice was whispering….
That even in olden times,
Artists needed to find practical and commercial ways
Of selling their art…
By painting on fabrics that people used,
By painting on ceramics,
By painting on hand held fans….

Some of the fans were hanging low.
I noticed some old ladies drop to their knees to take a closer look
And how they got up from the floor with such flexible ease…
Indeed the body does respond to your ideas of health and age…
These old ladies did not expect their bodies to become rigid,
And so they did not…..

We ate a sushi lunch on a conveyer belt.
You get a seat on the long bar
And you take from the conveyer belt,
A plate of whatever sushi you fancy.

The plates are color coded, and vary in price.
When you are done eating,
You simply stand up.
The attendant comes and adds up the numbers of colorful plates that you ate.
Four blues, four reds, two browns….. Etc.
You also get on the bar, your own green tea powder
And a faucet of boiling hot water, to make endless cups of tea.

In Harajuku, along the fancy Omotesando road,
All the designer stores have “SALE” signs,
But even with the sales, their prices are ridiculously high.
The only thing I was tempted to buy,
Was a leather backpack shaped like a robot.

I have been painting the youth of Shibuya and Harajuku
For the past year and a half.
It felt so nice to see them all around me again….
There were so many designs and styles to absorb…
Each with his or her own unique take on fashion.

Some of their accessories like bags, scarves, shoes,
Hats, belts……Were so different and cute…

Along Takeshita Dori,
I saw some of the most elaborately dressed young people.

Their attention to style and profile, was endearing
But at the same time I could not help thinking….
That they put so much of their efforts towards “looking cool”,
And like youth all around the world,
They pay so little attention to what is real and truly valuable…

City life can do this to you….
With the absence of Nature,
People tend to forget their origin.
They tend to truly believe that there is value in the valueless…
That they ARE,
What they believe themselves to be…

After many hours of walking around,
We had a tea break in the Crayon House.
An organic and vegetarian restaurant in the basement of a children’s bookstore.
It also has an organic veg market and a gift shop.

Most of the people seated around us,
Were healthy looking young mothers
With rosy glowing cheeks, and calm eyes.
Their young kids were so well behaved and cute…
with puffy cheeks that I had to resist not to kiss…

I also noticed that the low tables,
All had corner guards on them,
Used to prevent kids from getting hurt by sharp corners.
This meant that it was indeed a favorite healthy place
To bring kids and to spend an afternoon eating and resting.

As it got dark, we took the subway to Ginza
Along the neighborhood streets of Ginza,
You will find neon lit buildings
That host the world’s top brands.
Just walking along the street in the evenings,
Is a feast for the eyes that loves design.

In the side streets, you will see small designer stores and bars,
Restaurants and speciality shops.
The bakeries and candy stores,
All look like art stores,
With beautiful packaging and artful confections
That are just too beautiful to eat…

In the clean subway trains,
I used to see men, dressed in black suits
Reading comic books.

It was as if they were unwilling to give up their inner child
And wished to remember that behind the black suits
And the long hours of serious office work,
They were still playful children inside.

Today we jumped in and out of the subway
And not ONCE, did I see anyone reading comic books.
Many were playing with their smart phones,
A few were reading real books,
But not a single person was reading or carrying a comic book.

Like a wave of a Tsunami,
This wave has come and gone…
Behavior in a culture,
Acts much like a fashion trend
And fashion is funny this way….

Everything is so clean
It is as if by a magic trick
Dust does not adhere to cars
Grime does not stick to concrete buildings.

In every store and restaurant
No matter how big or small,
People clean and wipe the invisible dust.

Everything is so quiet…
There are no mobile phones allowed in any indoor public spaces
And that includes subways, trains, restaurants and stores.
Mobile phones do not ring,
People do not chat out loud into their bluetooths,
As their do all over the world…

The buses are silent
No car horns honking and almost no emergency vehicle sirens.
The city is almost quiet for a big city……and it is LOVELY.
I usually feel exhausted from the noise in big cities…

The people seem content
More so than in many other cultures.
They seem not to have that much anger and rage
As they do in so many other cultures.

People leave their bicycles unlocked.
They place them nicely by the curb of the road
Away from the walking path, or next to a tree,
And they go about their shopping and errands.

I would like to remind you that this is Tokyo,
And not just a small remote Japanese village….
Most big cities around the world,
Are a breeding ground of crime,
But not here….
I find myself relaxing…
Not thinking to watch if my bag is safe in the busy subways,
Not needing to worry about leaving things unguarded for a moment.

Everything is so expensive…
Including food…
Yes, you can grab a bowl of inexpensive noodles,
Or set meals, that are reasonably priced,
But just as often you will find,
The prices of food in restaurants,
To be astronomical.

A Kaiseki meal, which is a seasonal tasting menu
Runs about $160-$200 USD PER PERSON,
And not including drinks.

It is very common to spend $100 for a simple meal
$10 for a cup of small coffee without a refill
Or $15 for a small slice of cake.

I wonder how so many can afford these prices…
Or maybe I’ve been living in the remote hills for far too long…
And now I am emerging back into civilization…
Back into a different world…
Like the old men who used to say:
“I still remember when a penny could buy you a bag full of candy…”

I love being here with my lovely husband…
I love that he bows to everyone in the humble Japanese way.
I LOVE bowing too….
It is a symbolic act that honors the core being of other people…..
I bow to the divinity in YOU….

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