There’s an advert currently that focuses on an every-day, good-looking, well-kempt man i.e. not you, walking in the busy yet silent streets. How can this be, when simple minded viewers (this is you) can see speeding cars and people talking all around him? Because this man, dear pleb, is wearing the new noise-cancelling X1860JFW6573829-P headphones. Imagine, listening to all that silence! However, for almost the same price as those headphones, you could fly to Japan and experience all that silence for yourself.
Tokyo, a vast metropolis of fourteen million peoples living in quiet process harmony, was for a long time an itch that needed a ruddy good seeing to. Flying there on my way to the UK from Australia may well have been a long route, but absolutely worth it, although perhaps for not all the usual reasons. You see, it’s not much of a seeing place. Sydney is blessed with a glorious harbour and Opera House, Paris has its Eiffel, Barcelona it’s Gaudi, New York it’s lady justice, Tokyo it’s . . . well, you see? It doesn’t have a single monument of intrigue, but it’s a joy by a thousand niceties.
There are of course shopping centres galore, the just-about-recognisable Tokyo Tower, the famous Shibuya Crossing (ok, ok, one icon!), gaming and gadget districts, monolithic government buildings, ancient wooden Buddhist temples, manicured beautiful gardens, and a plethora of bars and restaurants illuminated by all-action dancing neon. So far, so normal. Yet it’s the little things that bewitch into finding Tokyo truly fascinating. The tiny one-chef, one waiter restaurants that specialise in only a few outstanding dishes resulting in a steady stream of clientele; the humungous underground and overground train network spanning the city making London seem like child’s scribble; the constant cycling and walking by the older generation to keep themselves trim; the adherence to cleanliness and calmness like it’s a religion; the respect given to every other human being through kindness and a welcome greeting; the quietness of children (yes, you read that correctly) and adults alike; the sheer number of people that you can squeeze on a train carriage without even a murmur of alarm; the handing out of face-towels when riding the bullet-trains to ease you into your journey (first class, I’m posh!); the fact they even have bullet trains at all, and they run on time too. It’s not so much of a seeing city, but a doing city. A city what does.
To illustrate, here’s a quick list of Japanese tech and engineering companies: Toyota, Subaru, Suzuki, Honda, Kawasaki, Mazda, Hino, Yamaha, Mitsubishi, Lexus, Nissan, Daihatsu, Sanyo, Sony, Panasonic, Toshiba, Olympus, Nikon, Canon, Sharp, Kodak, Hitachi, Fuji, Fujitsu, Nintendo, Sega, Bridgestone and Yokohama. That’s . . . that’s a lot for several countries let alone one. There is an all-pervading confidence and calm about Japan, and the ability to simply get things done.
There’s an excellent line in the film Crocodile Dundee when the hero visits America and claims, ‘imagine all these people wanting to live together. . . New York must be the friendliest place on earth!’ Come to Tokyo, forget the headphones, and relax in a thriving, bustling city of quiet wonderfulness.
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