Sunday, May 24, 2009

I like Tokyo

This is a city I can feel comfortable in. I barely speak ten words, I stumble over the etiquette and I can't read a single thing, but I'm confident to wander around by myself. I even played tour guide today.

When I try to speak tiny bits of Japanese, people are gracious. They don't point and laugh. They even make like they understand me. Smiling and bowing gets you a long way.

The city feels alive and welcoming. Not a lot of reckless abandon, I grant you, but a reserved enjoyment that is very easy to get along with. There has been real thought go into making it easy to get around (as long as you aren't trying to do so based on an address), so that you are almost never very far from some sort of railway station entrance. Armed with a rail map you can then get anywhere.

Of course, knowing a handful of Japanese words can make for awkward situations. After getting assistance to make my hotel access card work again, I bowed and said "sumimasen" (thankyou). The guy then said something to me very quickly in Japanese, which I decided (while I stood looking vacant) was probably "Oh, so you speak Japanese?". I don't even know the word for "no". So I said, in English, "No, I'm sorry, that was it." The next morning the guy said, in an almost perfect BBC accent, "How are you this morning Ma'am?". No doubt thinking "Bloody stupid Gaijin." I certainly felt like one. :)

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