Now you may already know my obsession with Tokyo from the last 2 years of trips to Japan, but this time we landed, it was very different. The sudden culture shock you experience when you first visit a place you’ve never been before. Where everything… no matter big or small looks amazing. Where every morsel of food you sample tastes like heaven, even though it’s a small dingy diner in a side street that doesn’t even have air conditioning on a hot summer’s day. Well, all of that is pretty much the same even in year three… for me anyway.
What’s different now is that feeling of ‘a home away from home’ that you gradually inherit the more you visit. And I know you’ll probably say, ‘you can say that about any place, the more you visit’. But no… I don’t agree. If you’re a foreigner, you’ll always be seen as the foreigner, especially if you don’t perhaps look like them. Tokyo has a way of making you feel like you’re part of its community each and every time you visit. Being a foreigner, you’re never made to feel small or even unusually big for that matter. True, it’s a humble city, as are most of the cities in Japan where you’re always sure to find cheerful, warm and helpful people everywhere you turn. But it’s the overarching respect for everyone… for life that really makes the difference. They don’t change traditions to suit travellers, instead, the Japanese have a way of treating everyone as if they’re locals. As an interracial couple; Me and the Mrs never get stared at on the train or on the street walking in Tokyo (whilst in London being so multi-cultural, we’re almost 100% sure to get a few dirty looks every time we’re out and about). You can dress the way you want and there’s no judgement from anyone as Tokyo is a city where some of the most shocking subcultures co-habituate. And… and this is a big and… you probably could survive here without learning Japanese. A good chunk of things (train stations, buses, restaurants, convenience stores.etc)