top of page

essays | places | Japan

Tokyo / Lingering Alone

the difference between seeing a place and being in a place


   And there we were. Somewhere, deep in it. Two microscopic men in mankind’s biggest megapolis (a word I just made up only to find out that it had been made up already). My friend had flown in with bags full of valuable knowledge about Japanese culture, and all I had brought was cheap curiosity. Japanese people and culture, even the food, had only ever made the faintest appearance in my life. And if I read up on places, I prefer to do so after going. Somehow, I like my explorations naive and unburdened by background information. There is a certain unbiased and unprejudiced freedom in that.


After I had fed off my friend's insights and Ramen tips for two days, he was knocked out by the flu. Just before he crawled under the sheets to hide out from the virus, he lent me a pair of long johns to save me from the same cold destiny. And so I was back to my uncharted steps of discovery. Neon-lit nights, frantic ant-crossings, and placid Japanese cherry stains on the concrete carpet didn't make for surprises and confirmed the few clichés I had picked up over the years. Only the replicas of the Statue of Liberty and the Eiffel Tower seemed oddly misplaced.