Shibuya: History and beauty

Shibuya, one of the most cosmopolitan districts of Tokyo, is everything you would expect from a modern city: cheeky, entertaining and provocative.

 

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But it wasn’t always this way. In fact, Hachiko could tell the story better than anybody else. He could tell you about the war days and how the bombs took his beloved master, how he bravely kept waiting for years until death came for him, too.

He let Shibuya be at night with the condition to restore its well-mannered behavior during the day.

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Shibuya, has come a long way since the days of WWII and has become, along with its little sister Harajuku, the center of the Japanese fashion world.

 

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In Shibuya time is ethereal

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Shibuya is in another dimension, where bad memories can become sweet and precious. If you don’t believe me, you can ask Hachiko yourself.

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Tokyo Station: The rebirth of a giant

Tokyo station  resembles  the scenery of a film set from the 1920s. With its inspired European architecture, lighting and breeze atmosphere, it invites you to dream of a Japan that no longer exist but that we all yearn for.

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Bombed during WWII it wasn’t until 2012 that it will be restored to its former glory to commemorate the 100th anniversary of its existence.

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And the surroundings  of the Tokyo station do not disappoint.

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At my arrival to the Imperial Palace I saw the merge of the new and old. All in one

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The Imperial palace guarded by thousand samurai souls

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Everything in Tokyo glows mystery.

Cicadas and the peeping Tom

 

I recall my first day in these islands as if it were yesterday, but not because of the excitement of arriving in a new place to discover, to learn from, to treasure in my heart for the years to come. But because of the noisy, impolite, nerve-wracking singing of the cicadas, that woke me up at godforsaken hours.
Let me be candid and tell you that these tree-friendly bugs have annoyed me since day one. With their unstoppable singing, I thought I was going mad. Perhaps, I went crazy after all. But my mental sanity will be probably discussed in another post. 😄

I was so upset with the cicadas that my murderer’s instincts started to flourish that year.

I would stare at the trees outside my window with my sleepy eyes, ruffled hair, and sweaty face. So, one of the neighbors thought I was a peeping Tom ( a pervert who spies people while they undress)
The 85 years old gentleman who called the police on me accusing me of such crime (peeping Tom) came later to apologize for the misunderstanding. Of course, he came accompanied by his wife. Just in case. You never know, right?.

 

But times have changed, and even to my surprise, I have grown fond of the little tree-loving insects (cicadas). I don’t look forward to their endless singing, but I am happy they always make me look out of my window.

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Laura

A rainy day of 2002, I was landing in Costa Rica, a paradise on earth, where the stress and rush of the modern world are not to be found. Just yet. Not just yet.

As always the same routine, immigration, taxi, and hotel. Just do it all over again a few days later.

But little I knew my life was about to take a turn.

Arriving at the hotel, a casual phone call home would confirm the worst. He was gone. The time stood still for what it seemed hours. The auricular fell from my trembling hands. And I stood there unable to move. Everything became a blur. Someone offered to help me with my bags. I looked at him. And tears started pouring uncontrollably. I collapsed crying onto the floor.

I woke up the next morning with my all my clothes on. I felt lost. It took me a while to remember where I was. And what had happened. And when the memories of the previous day came back so did the tears. And while I was debating if it was worth living another day, a knock on my door interrupted my suicidal thoughts.

I opened without asking.

“Laura” said a husky voice in the semi-darkness “it is time.”

“I know” I replied, “I had been waiting for you.”

He extended his pale, bony hand to me. I took it. And without words, he led me into darkness.

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Tea ceremony

I have recently read a couple of interesting books “Samurai Williams: The adventurer who unlock Japan” and “The Tale of Murasaki: A Novel.”

Both books talk about remarkable historical figures, who have had a significant impact in shaping Japan’s identity as such. And to my surprise, in both books, the “Japanese tea ceremony” is mentioned, almost as a coincidence.


So, I decided to join a “Japanese tea ceremony” to experience this ritual first hand.  And my scepticism was overthrown by the sacred atmosphere that surrounded the room as an invisible veil had covered it all leaving only our naked souls exposed to what whatever might happened.

I was first, presented with some sweets to help me stand the bitterness of the tea. They were hand-made, beautifully-shapen and, as I confirmed later, nectar of Gods.

Then, the preparation of the tea itself begun, a girl, whose skin resembles the white snow of Akita, with gracious and precise movements started folding and stretching a piece of cloth. Such movements had the audience in a trance. We all fell under the spell of her. She pours tea powder into a bowl and whisks it with intensity and reverence. Then she slowly pours water into the bowl.

Nobody speaks.

Once she finishes with the preparation, a handsome young man passes the bowls around.
He sits the bowl before you and reverently bows before leaving. We turn the cup three times clockwise. And drink the tea in three gulps.

I feel as if a spell has been broken and I can hear the traffic sounds, and people outside in the street again.
I’m asked to eat the sweets I had been given previously, a very polite reminder that it was time to leave.
Life goes on.

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Yone oni

One morning in the busy city I live in, I got into the train, without realizing I was about to be emotionally and physically abused by a ninny salary boy, who, I am sure, will die a virgin.

I will call him “the ninny”

I, unluckily, stood next to “the ninny” when I got on the train, and to an even worse luck, the train stopped suddenly, making us all stumble, onto one another. And to my outrage “the ninny” started elbowing me.!

 “The ninny” was elbowing me so I wouldn’t fall on him, which was not necessary because I was already trying hard not to.

Being elbowed so disrespectfully woke inside me, Yone oni (oni=devil), the dark side of me that I work hard to keep at bay.

But “the ninny” woke her up, I felt “Yone oni” waking up and start breathing with fury. We (Yone oni and I) took a look at him, and then we saw his weakness: embarrassment.

Embarrassing “the ninny” easy-peasy. So we started laughing at him. Laughing more and more, until we saw “the ninny’s” cheeks turning bright red.

Yone oni was happy but not satisfied. She started plotting against “the ninny” while I was trying hard to calm her down. But she refused to go back to sleep. She wanted revenge. She didn’t want to listen to me, until, I explained to her that spending more time on him would be a waste of our time.

Then she agreed, through clenched teeth, to take a little nap but she promised to keep an eye open just in case I might need her.

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Shinjuku: The beast and the heart of Tokyo

 

When I arrived to Shinjuku for the very first time, I got lost and I almost ended up crying in one of its corners, as I am houkouonchi, which means literally “person with no sense of direction” (方向音痴 ほうこうおんち)I still hopeless to find my way around this big city.

But if you survive your very 1st day in Shinjuku, the beast and the heart of Tokyo, then you can rest assure that you will survive anywhere else in the world.

 

 

Shinjuku is at first overwhelming and scary, but with time, it opens its arms to you

 

And it can even become your friend and protector, if we give it time. Just a little bit of time.

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Without internet: Could you work?

 

“I’m telling you when I started my career, we didn’t have internet, we didn’t even work with computers” was saying, my middle-aged colleague.

 

I stared at my colleague while holding my fork halfway to my mouth.
My colleague’s words shocked me because, although, I interact with technology every day, as most of you, it is shocking to be reminded that it was not always the case.

 

My colleagues started talking about telephones, faxes, and notebooks and pens.

“Can you imagine? I even had to go to a seminar to learn how to send e-mails?” My colleague was saying in a low voice as if making me a confidence.

 

My colleague’s words resonate with me because in the back of my head, I still remembering the world without internet, perhaps my generation is the last generation to have grown up without it (internet). Yes, I am that old 🙂

I still remember the boring Sunday afternoons and the horrible silence in the streets when the children went back home for dinner.

 

In other words, I remember daily life without internet. But business without internet, I have never experienced..!! and I think that is a huge (very big) challenge.

 

Just think about it, you are only giving a notebook and pen. And you can use the office’s phone and fax machine as long as the other thirty people, who work with you, are not using it 😫

I don’t know you, but I couldn’t work properly. Or maybe I am just spoiled.

 

Working without computer or internet, I have never done. And that’s why I take my hat off (I want to show my respect) to those colleagues who have achieved so much without technology. Thank you, and I hope one day, I can be as good as you are.

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Meiji shrine: Where the Gods meet

Tokyo is a place of contradictions, where you can find glamour in one corner and tradition and culture in another one (another corner). When visiting Harajuku, Shibuya’s cheeky little sister, one find eccentricity, and it (Harajuku) never disappoints, with its vibrant colors, rare stores, and beautiful people, you navigate through its small allies in a trancelike state. At least that’s how I feel every time I go there (Harajuku)

But just around Harajuku station (Omotesando exit), you will find one of its most precious treasures: Meiji Shrine (明治神宮 Meiji jingū) a place that has survived modernity until now. And still bring people together, local and visitors, we can feel the Gods and their spirits whisper in the trees when they ruffle the leaves, which some confuse with the wind. But I know it’s them who met in the trees’ top to talk about us, to make fun of us, to help us, to listen and to remind us that this is not the only life we will live.

The entrance of this enchanted place

Barrels of sake

Barrels of wine

We do like spirits here, what can I say?😉

 

 

Isn’t it breathtaking?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

That’s Meiji jingū, a place not only to worship but to talk to the Gods and to meet them.

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A little bit of Yokohama: Summer 2017 

Yokohama, the biggest city in Kanagawa-ken has different faces. Traditional and modern. Old and new collectively creat and craft the identity of this lovely city.


I was just taking as many pictures as I could possibly take in the incandescent heat of the summer, without perishing from a heatstroke. When I found this:  A gigantic snoopy that made it all better.

I also found jugglers entertaining children and adults with children’s souls 💕 It was nice.