This entry is part of a series based on our journey to Japan and Indonesia, beginning September 13, 2017. In each post we use our presence in Asia as a broader background to the usual exploration of our fit into this world. Welcome to our private life.
Japan after World War II reestablished the metro Tokyo government structures, and part of that restructuring was the abolishment of Tokyo as a city. In place of single giant megalopolis, the metropolitan area was re-legislated into a collection of 23 wards, which are sort of like boroughs. That’s what Taito is, a ward. Within wards exist other subdivisions and neighborhoods; Ueno, where we are staying, is one of those neighborhoods.
We quickly learned that visitors to Taito should plan when they eat. Almost every restaurant there closes between 3pm and 5pm, so don’t try to eat out early. And don’t try to find food before the evening on a Saturday, unless it’s ramen from 7-11. We learned that valuable bit of information first-hand when we stayed home to rest on a day when our companions went exploring. While they were gone, we practiced eating in Taito when we can’t shop for groceries, and the rest of the time we spent digesting all the memories and notes from the last five days. It was a characteristic pause since, by design, our lives don’t really change much when we travel.
I always thought a trip to Japan would be life-altering, but so far our consistency is still unblemished. However, we have made a few substantial observations since our arrival here.
Being parents, we are sensitive to other children. Here they are noticeably more subdued than American kids. Vassar is a good example for comparison. He’s not a bad kid by any definition, but in comparison his energy is conspicuous. You could either say that Japanese children have more restraint or less personality depending on your perspective, and maybe both are true. All we know is that everyone around us was equally respectful and calm, a valuable quality we want to continue reinforcing with him so he’ll carry it into the future. But that wasn’t the only thing I learned.
Aside from the cultural discovery, more than other visits this time away from home has helped me better understand how the literary aspect of our creativity is significant to our creativity. We both love making images, so of course we plan to continue photographing (and more), but we need to fit more writing into what we make because it deepens the meaning of our message. And we both really enjoy writing. But more important, I believe eventually a greater focus on improving this particular skill could become the basis for our future. For me, being a writer has always been just a dream, but perhaps it is still an attainable one. Just a thought.
Touring with a couple for two weeks is like a relationship time warp, you quickly learn a lot about each other. Aside from the instantaneous growth there are a lot of advantages to traveling with other people; split costs, different perspectives, and greater variety are just a few. But the most important part is the intimacy of living in close quarters.
A marriage is an organism just like an individual, so relationships between married couples are even more complex. Because of the dynamics it’s probably harder to find a compatible couple than it is to find a mate, so we are happy to know these guys. And it has been a privilege getting to know them so fast.
When we first started planning for this trip the details were an issue. Like how do we find the apartment where we are staying? How do we navigate the trains? Would we be able to communicate? But aside from the very first confusion of getting off the narita express and not knowing where to transfer or how to buy the fare, every problem we anticipated was overblown. Tokyo is a very tourist friendly city, easily navigable, very approachable despite its size.
If you’re visiting Japan and you have questions, don’t hesitate to contact us for advice or general information because we love to praise the Japanese.
We stopped in Asakusa to look at a shop and I found this t-shirt. I don’t understand what it means (maybe it’s a Japanese thing), but I liked it. Reminds me of what Winogrand said.
In the end, maybe the correct language would be how the fact of putting four edges around a collection of information or facts transforms it. A photograph is not what was photographed, it’s something else.
Traveling with the boy is always interesting, mostly because new environments amplify his personality differences from ours. We are always interested in how he is more social and more outgoing than us, and we try to nurture those qualities because we don’t want our respectful irreverence for most people to rub off on him.
He just had to take a picture with these cutouts. I wish I understood what they said.