PARIS DIARY

All the reasons to love Tokyo

The locals may not be friendly, but it’s in their DNA to be helpful.

 |  PARIS DIARY  |  5-minute read |   10-12-2016
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It's Christmassy and crispy cold in my new hometown of Tokyo. At 5 o’clock, on the dot, the loudspeaker on the streets will come alive with a classictune — this is the city’s way of checking that the public announcement system is in working order in case of an emergency. It’s one of the many things I heart about Tokyo.

Today is different though, because along with themusic the lights will come on and turn the busy Roppongi street into a winter wonderland and my mood on cue will lift to a festive cheer. There is no room for gloom in the face of such magic. For this moment, I’ll put my complaints with the city (and there are a good few) on pause and focus on what I have slowly fallen in love with in this most alien of places that challenges my chaotic-always-in-a-rush rhythm. Each one of these begs to be an essay.

Being winter and all, number one has to be the Japanese toilet. I remember the worst part about cold Delhi mornings was descending my tush onto the essential throne knowing that a freezing shock wave would course through my system. Imagine the joy of sitting on a hot pot every morning. I don’t want to be crude but that heated seat and that bidet, drying, vibrating and musical functions are beyond genius.

The only thing that comes close to adding the same morning cheer are the endless, edible, winter blue skies. It’s icy, it’s fresh and the sun warms my face every morning as I cycle my daughter to school. Yes, that’s another cherished part of my existence here — my MamaChari (literally Mother’s chariot), it’s the ubiquitous electric cycle with a rechargeable battery that us locals load up and zip around in. I am more than mildly obsessed with my mega mean machine.

The streets are lick-ably clean, and don’t get me started on how safe this city feels. I have stumbled home in the wee hours in my tight dress and tottering heels using public transport without a care, and I’m a Delhi girl who takes her personal safety very seriously.

mamachari_121016043559.jpg The MamaChari (literally Mother’s chariot) is a ubiquitous electric cycle with a rechargeable battery that locals load up and zip around in.

Also, there is no fear of getting lost here, even though I still can’t read a word of Kanji or Katakana and all the street names are only written in that, because there’s always a helpful local who will leave his car or shop and walk me to my destination as it’s easier than trying to surpass the language barrier. I can’t say the locals are friendly (as they generally mistrust foreigners) but it’s in their DNA to be helpful. I love their obeisance to culture and the system. They will never fail in doing what is correct (they can be militant about it, but let me leave it for another time). It’s probably this trait that makes them so proud of their precision.

All things take longer in Tokyo, there is a level of patience required that I’m struggling to learn but the end result is near perfection. Oh, and did I mention, beautiful. There is beauty in almost everything from their gardens to their food even their packaging, especially their packaging.

A Japanese neighbour will bring bottles of wine for a last minute party wrapped in cloth in an exquisitely efficient manner and later I will discover it is a traditional art form for wrapping called Furoshiki, still used for lunch boxes, gifts, shopping bags and all sorts. These delightful details have become integral to my life in Tokyo.

tokyo-1_121016044312.jpg  Furoshiki is a traditional art form for wrapping, still used for lunch boxes, gifts, shopping bags and all sorts.

I no longer marvel at the way my grocer fills the little plastic bag with air for the squishy strawberries or avocado before placing them in my overflowing sack so that they’ll remain intact and juicy. Of course, I can never tip him for this because there is NO TIPPING in Japan. This may just be my most favourite part of living here — paying what’s on the bill without fretting over percentages and getting out. It’s another story that they will make you break a 10,000 Yen note because you are one yen (roughly 50 paise) short.

Before I moved here my local police station in Delhi would get a nightly call from me at 3 am to complain about the noisy construction behind my bedroom wall. Watching construction here is the polar opposite. They build roads and entire buildings in record time with minimal inconvenience. The construction will start at 9 am and be done by 5 pm. There will be a mandatory decibel reader on display (even I didn’t know such a thing existed) to monitor the sound level.

More than a dozen people will be delegated to assist traffic and walkers, making a song and dance of topping the digging each time someone needs to pass. All the workers will be dressed in Jika-tabi (split-toe ninja shoes) and balloon pants. Though the colours will be neutral there will be a distinctive style statement. Much like the rest of the city’s simple but asymmetrical fashion — I dare you to go find a plain white shirt in Tokyo that doesn’t either have diagonal buttons at the back or one sleeve longer than the other or some other quirk.

tokyo-2_121016044354.jpg  The streets of Tokyo are alight with Christmas lights.

I’m not even half way through all that makes me happy about my life here but it’s not a blind love affair. There are many, many things I can’t hack like the treatment of women and kids, the feeling of always being the outsider, the rigidity of the system, the lack of malleability, the complete absence of real edge, the obsession with protocol but I will hold off on writing a thesis on these till the lights are turned off and I’m miserable. For now, I will indulge in a midnight massage and fall a little deeper in love.

(Courtesy: Mail Today)

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Writer

Koel Purie Rinchet Koel Purie Rinchet @koelscouch

Professional Attention Seeker. Currently loves and writes in Paris.

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