Walking & Tokyo part 3

December 10, 2008

Counterintuitively, I did not bring a camera to Tokyo, nor did I practice karate on unsuspecting pedestrians, but I preoccupied with something else – my aching body. It’s certainly a symptom of my generation – the thirtysomethings, of not exercising enough, of being overweight, of literally possessing a pain in the ass.

I didn’t walk as much as I used to, and why I used to walk wasn’t simply because I liked walking, it was because I like seeing how people lived, and when I was much younger, it was imbued with mindless bravado. Somehow, I thought walking around the more gentrified city areas was a great way to “be in touch”; I remember being accosted by 2 drunk men in the dark streets of Caracas, though I did find a shop that eventually became my favorite coxinha place in Manaus, and in Harlem, while not exactly a slum, was a  good place to walk around if one knows when not to stop and stare.

Most Tokyoites walk, mostly because of the excellent, extensive, and utterly reliable subway system, that you don’t need to have a car to get around.  The streets are pedestrian-friendly; they are wide, safe, clean and orderly, signages are logical, infrastructure such as lighting, crossings, underpasses (extensive linkages to subway stations, major shopping malls) are impressive.  Reflective of that lifestyle, Tokyoites wears sensible shoes, carries micro-umbrellas in their purses, handkerchiefs in their pockets, and sling sensible knapsacks.  No other megapolis in the world has quite the balance of convenience and functionality. 

It was mid autumn in November, averaging 12~18 deg celsius, and the suns shines on all the days I was in Tokyo.  Slowly, I trodded along, stopping to gawk at life-like plastic models of meals in glass cabinets outside restaurants, entering wine shops to ogle at branded wines (mentally comparing prices), eyeing digital cameras at the mega-electronics stores.  I stopped by Tokyu HANDS (another ritual), where 8 storeys houses innovative products ranging from kitchen knives to travel luggage to bicycles to toys to stationery, where I would do most of my shopping for gifts.  I bought reusuable grocery bags, some fridge magnets & a “mobile garden”, where you could grow a garden in a capsule which dangles from your handphone. 

Interesting anti-smoking campaign ad

Interesting anti-smoking campaign ad

New stricter guidelines also meant that smoking could only be done in specially set-aside spaces; at an oasis in front of the Shinjuku Takashimaya I people-watched as I rest my aching feet.  Tokyoites are beautiful, well-coiffed and a mostly elegant race (unlike most of the rest of the Japanese – who are just peasants); in the way they handle a cigarette, the way they stand around purposefully.

I take another seat on a park bench at the Tokyo Metropolitan complex (city hall), as I note the falling leaves in the courtyard.  A young couple with a little boy walks by.  As a especially red leaf detaches itself from a branch of a tree I was just looking at, just then, at that very moment, they began to run.


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