Summer is almost here

And I love the summer.

Though it is going to be super hot, everyone here says so.

Five months ago, I got rid of 70% of my “stuff”, sent the rest by boat to my parents and left my apartment in Jerusalem feeling a bit unsure about a lot of things related to the past, the future, and the present.

I am still a bit unsure about things, but I am working on thinking less about the past, not worrying about the future, and most definitely enjoying the present.

Because I made it to Japan, but more importantly, I took off for another adventure.

The postmen here call me “Peregu” and it’s a refreshing identity. I look at the envelope they handed to me, it’s from the bank account I just opened or the phone company I just joined. Everything is in Japanese, it makes me slightly nervous. Then I look at my (hebrew) name written in Katakana; it’s funny and different. And I like it.

Tokyo University of Foreign Studies is where I am studying the Japanese Language until September. Then, I will move on to a totally different part of Tokyo. Everything will be new again: my university, where I will be living, where I will go to get groceries, the people I will meet and encounter.

There are some unknown obstacles ahead. Sometimes my head is full of questions of how things will be like. But I am learning to count on myself. It will be ok.

And more importantly, I am here now. On this part of Tokyo for the time being. And I go to my university every day. Sometimes, I almost forget that around it, there are some very nice places I should indulge in before life goes on.

TUFS is located at the depths of residential Western Tokyo: Neighborhoods, parks, locals who really like to grow cucumbers in their gardens. They are very surprised to see me walking around. I can relate.

It’s quiet. Peaceful. Foreign to me.

Crazy Tokyo itself, The City with no ends, is looming just a short train ride away. But I like being a bit far from it. Close enough to reach, far enough to withdraw.

Some photos from a walk I took after uni today.

 

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A Tokyo Memory


Back in 2014 when I was an exchange student in Japan, I made a trip from Kyoto to Tokyo in the middle of the semester with two of my international University friends, Ruby and Jess. 

We chose the night bus as our method of transportation. It takes between 6 to 7 hours to reach Tokyo, we left Kyoto at 12AM (exactly) and got to Ikebukuro central bus station by 7 AM. With the Shinkansen (bullet train), paying a lot more, you can make the same distance in 3 hours. 
When we reached Ikebukuro I was super tired and so excited. It was my first time in Tokyo, a city I had wanted to visit for most of my life. I felt familiar with the place somehow, and it seemed very natural to order my first Tokyo cup of coffee at the nearby Starbucks at 7:20 AM. 
However, when we arrived at the subway, I was lost: the map indicating the different lines seemed INSANE to me. How do we even? What?  Maybe it was the lack of sleep, but compared to the simple subway system in Kyoto, this was out of my league. A few months later, when I returned to Tokyo, I had a different perspective on this, but I still find Tokyo to be incredibly layered.  
We arrived at our boarding house in Asakusa where we were planning on ONLY spending our nights at. Asakusa is considered “old style” Tokyo, wooden houses and shrines, it was reconstructed that way even though the entire place was burnt to the ground in WW2. The boarding house was very small, falling apart in some places and full of women. Oh, and the shower was in the kitchen. The cost was indeed very low and part of our successful “saving money” plan. 

We dropped our bags and moved on to explore the city.
We returned around 11PM. 

The landlord was a Japanese elderly woman and the rest of the girls were all foreigners from Malaysia and Indonesia. Most of them were aspiring immigrants who lived in that boarding house for a very long time and were cleaning offices for a living. We found ourselves in a tight room full of bunkbeds, each was 3 beds, so you could only crawl into your bed with some difficulty, which is what I did. 

Some of the girls were removing their headscarves, others were already combing their hair. They were all amazed by our presence. 

None of them spoke English. Japanese was our language of communication. I presented myself as an American named Effi (first time this happened), the girl in the bed above me got very excited. “We had people from Spain coming here, from the Netherlands, but never the US!”. “How come your hair is like this? So pretty” said another.
Before sunrise, some of the girls woke up to pray, then left for work. I laid in my small space listening to the sounds of their breathing, the ruffling of their clothes. Tokyo was waking up around us as well. Through the thin wooden walls of the room, I could hear voices in Japanese: A family was preparing for the new day, a TV was turned on somewhere, a child was laughing at something. All so close to our room, a room full of young women who don’t belong, yet, wish for a better life. 

I was observing a side of Tokyo I wasn’t planning to see.
The next days, I visited Shibuya, Roppongi and the fanciest shopping centers I’ve ever been to in my life in Shinjuku. I returned to the boarding house each night (I even showered in the kitchen). Once, I let one of the girls to comb my hair, she told me I should always comb it with a wooden comb.  

Tokyo exceeded my expectations. It is a lively, prosperous city, full of everything excellent- Food, Art and beautiful things. 

But the boarding house is on my mind today and will stay there for a long time.


Tokyo 1

I do not like the common assumption that Tokyo = Japan. Japan is definitely more than Tokyo. Different parts of the country have their own unique sights, traditions, and atmosphere, which is enchanting. Tokyo has also absorbed westernization and white supremacy bullshit to the point it sometimes feels rottenly unneeded. Such as the insane amount of American celebrities on clothing and cosmetic advertisement throughout the city.

Nevertheless, Tokyo is a significant part of Japan that with all of its globalized qualities has managed to stay Japanese.

Tokyo is messy and organized at the same time. As someone who has experienced New York City, I can tell you Tokyo wins over by the number of attractions, secret corners, possibilities, tiny crammed goodies, and more. Tokyo is full of high fashion dressed ladies giggling to each other after coming out of a herb facial masks boutique, highschoolers are bolting their way through the subway stations every morning, talking loudly and mischievously placing things in each other hair.  Shops go on and off business in mysterious hours, big chunks of the city awake only at night,  tiny streets have no names sometimes, Tokyo is buzzing in a way I have never ever experienced.

Tokyo seems to have no organized structure or main ropes to hold its ongoing mess. However, it has its own comfortable order of things. Somehow. The city is kicking with a very distinctive sense of arrangement. Between the tourists and the immigrants, relaxed people are making their usual route to work, some are tired and serious like the stereotype, and some are happy and excited for the new day. 

the city beneath my feet 🙂

this was amazingly good

We went to see this Exhibition at the Mori art museum. later on we all agreed it was one of the best exhibitions we have ever seen.

photos from small hidden galleries 

at the subway

Shinjuku 

Akihabara

Asakusa, very near the place we stayed.