3.16.2008

Aishiteru, Tokyo

in my previous post i may have inadvertently painted a somewhat grim picture of my visit to tokyo so i wanted to use this follow up posting to somewhat to if not overturn that suggestion if there was one, then to at least elaborate on it. tokyo, to a tourist whom has never been to the city, will seem overwhelming, over-sensory, and possibly, with enough time, dismally exclusionary. but i think in the end, its only a natural occurence for anyone coming to really realize how "out of place" he or she is in a place, that they feel a sense of "emptiness" in that place. i mentioned this before that tokyo is simply a hard nut to crack. at the end of my trip, i had this distinct feeling of being completely out of place in tokyo, vastly missing "home", yet at the same time thrilled by all the new sights and sounds and mysteries that the city seem fecund with. it was only on my flight back to the US, that i ran across an eeriely appropriate representation of this feeling that pervaded my wide-eyed experience of Tokyo.
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beyond the particular part of the movie that i think paints well the feelings i felt about (or in) tokyo, the relatively recent film "paris je'taime" is all around a beautiful piece of cinematography ... a collection of 20 film vignettes that all revolve around concepts of "love" in relation to the "city of lights". its probably the urban designer in me, but i have always believed that there is this strange love affair urbanites have in relation to their city, especially a city that in some way has become a vangaurd of a type of living, a particular sort of love affair with "place". for example, the TV series "sex and the city" is not only about the lives of urban women, but its specifically about the lives of new york (manhattan) urban women. the appropriate title sex AND the CITY weaves a string about this love/hate affair we can have with a place as magical as new york, as magical as paris, as magical as tokyo.
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there was one vignette in the movie about paris, that struck home with me while i viewed it in my delightfully comfortable business first seat. it was filmed in a quaint, almost comical format, about a middle aged non descript single american woman who had come to paris by herself to experience a city, and a culture she could only dream about till then. yet throughout the narration, what she came across was not a magical city of love and beauty, but a strange cold place where the city and the people of the city seemed to jealously gaurd the "city-ness" of the place. this woman only felt a sense of being outside of the "know", and ultimately being left out, creating a vast wave of emptiness that only made you wonder "what am i doing here?" in much the same way, tokyo felt this way to me ... a somewhat aloof, almost inapproachable place, where the idyllic or romantic images of it you thought were representative of the place, seemed at best unaccessible to you, or else simply were non-existent.
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the turning point of this depressing story though really hit an emotional chord when the scene moves her finally to a quiet park setting in the city, where she sat by herself, eating her little sandwich, "trying" to "feel" the city. but that is then when it struck her ... a sense of feeling incredibly sad as if there was something great that had just past her by and she couldn't even know what it was. but simultaneously somewhere in that brooding swirl of sadness, there was a kernel of great joy because even if she couldn't identify what it was, somehow simply the act of feeling something greatly came gushing forth ... she was in essence, alive ... and that very alive-ness filled her with joy. as the narrator said, it was in that moment that she fell in love with paris ... and that paris fell in love with her.
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the last full day i was in tokyo, i was deep in feeling out of place in the town. and somehow it was only the idea that i "should" finish the "itenerary" of things to see that got me out into the city again. i went to this beautiful park, had a lonely meal in this park, walked around enjoying the absolutely beautiful day and all the people around me who seemed to have someone to also be with. the situation only made me feel as if this city had no place for me (dramatic i know for a tourist ... maybe its just male pms but i was all off kilter in tokyo). i got to this beautiful temple, saw it, took photos, enjoyed it as any tourist would and then i noticed this grand tree that all around had this little wooden "wish tablets" hung around it. the custom was that you'd purchase one of these wood tablets, write a "wish" on it, and then hang it on the tree. everyday then these tablets would be burned in offering to the "gods" or whatever. without thinking about it much, i figured what the hell, and bought a tablet.
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i didn't really think much about my wish and what i wrote in the end wasn't much of a wish per se ... but in almost stream of consciousness fashion, the moment the pen hit the tablet, i wrote something to the effect that coming to tokyo, as far as i could be from home, literally on the other side of the world, made me realize how "lost" i can sometimes feel, how i feel like i am looking for something without even knowing what it was. maybe that something is this love affair with a place, with a person, i dunno ... but i was looking, and the lack of success so far made me incredibly sad. as i hung my tablet and walked away, a gush of emotions flowed through me and i couldn't help but start crying. not all out wailing or anything, but just the right heaviness of sadness where it isn't enough to be therapeautically cathartic, but enough to weigh you down ... a dead weight.
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as i walked through the beautiful park on the beautiful day, my mind became a well spring of metaphorical views on my own life. here i was on a quiet path in the middle of nowhere ... an absolutely beautiful surrounding and perfect day all around, but all i could be concerned with was wanting to know where the path was going ... and of course, any sign i ran across was written in an intelligible language to me. for some reason, this relentless need to know where i needed to go (or simply a desire to have someone to share the overbearing void with) made it difficult to just be where i was and enjoying the beauty of "the moment" as they say.
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maybe i'm getting older and less able to adapt as i once was, but the trip to tokyo made me realize that i want to find "place" in my life ... or that coming to this strange world, made me realize how much i missed the "place" of my life right now, the small armature of sanity that surrounds me now.
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and then the forest cleared, and i came across an open field where people laid on the grass enjoying the warm sun, kids running around, and then my metaphorical mind wished that such a clearing would also soon come across my life. i laid down, looked at the sky with clouds racing across, and cried some more... a good cathartic one. after ten fifthteen minutes, i felt better. i dunno if i felt as if Tokyo "loved" me ... but i felt that that day wasn't so bad. i traced back to the temple, to the sacred tree, and looked again at the words i had written just an hour before. strangely a sense of unknown lightness replaced what was there before and i smiled and walked on, entranced by this japanese wedding procession that i had just happened to stumble upon.
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i think sometimes we invent "signs" in our lives to fit what purpose we need them to, to help us understand the crazy world we live in. that day i walked into that park with a sense of heaviness created by what i perceived as an unloving, unknowing city ... and by the time i walked out ... Tokyo didn't seem that bad ... you just had to let it get to know you. in similar fashion, i think the lives we build around us sometimes are like strange cities we might visit, at first foreign, daunting, lonely ... but strangely like a new city, your own life sometimes needs to just get to know you, and then when that happens, you "fit in", you're "placed", and you begin feeling that strange sense of joy from simply feeling.
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1 Comments:

At 10:19 PM, Blogger Robert said...

what a beautiful posting!

 

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