04 May, 2017

Contrast within Tokyo

I've told you in previous blog posts that we live out of the main centre of Tokyo. It's a 30 to 45 min train ride to the nearest "big smoke" or big city centre in Tokyo. Yes, our address is still Tokyo, but we're definitely not inner city, in fact our little corner of Tokyo is really quiet. We have no major roads nearby and we don't live close enough to the train line to get that noise nor to major shopping centres. Because I work from home most of the time it's easy to forget that we live in the midst of a huge metropolis. But every now and then I'm reminded.

Yesterday I had meetings at two major (and famous) centres in Tokyo: Akihabara (electric city fame) and Shibuya (mega intersection crossing and Hachiko-the-faithful-dog statue).

I got lost in both places. 

At Akihabara I was to have a Japan Harvest meeting with a writer and my boss. I walked up and down a couple of flights of stairs before taking the wrong exit and ended up walking half-way around the shopping district that surrounds the busy station before I found the coffee shop where our meeting was scheduled to be held. And it was right next to an exit! The station wasn't super busy, by Tokyo standards, because I was there right before shops opened at 10am. But there still were plenty of people.

A small glimpse of the road crossing. Here are some better photos.
Not, however, as many as I encountered a couple of hours later at Shibuya. Here I was to meet a couple of ladies for lunch and to learn a Bible story together. One of them suggested we meet at the "Hachiko exit". It completely missed me that this is where the famous dog's statue is. However it seems that no one else had. As the Japanese phrase goes: "even cats and rice ladles" were there on this public holiday. Apparently visiting this place is one of the top 10 things to do in Tokyo! I've lived here nearly 10 years and never done it.

I didn't take a photo of the statue, I would have had to battle with the four-deep crowd that was already doing so. Located at that same exit is the famous Shibuya crossing that you often see depicting downtown Tokyo. There were lots of tourists around walking across with their phones held high to record the experience. Plus I think I saw at least three or four film crews there. Check out this 90 second video:

Here's a 9-minute documentary called "24 hours at Shibuya's Hachiko Scramble (I think the stat is wrong about how many people cross in one 45 sec crossing, though).

Yes, I crossed twice, as we searched for a place to have lunch where we could linger and not have to wait to get in. There were people standing in the middle of the crossing waiting for friends to take a photo of them. Generally being someone who avoids crowds, it wasn't great fun. There is a reason we haven't gone to view this spectacle of crowded city living.

Coming back home was a relief. Here's a main road I crossed on my way home from our local station.

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