After months of planning and over 24 hours of travel, we finally arrived at Narita airport. Feeling grubby and exhausted we navigated our way to our accommodation and promptly crashed.
Tokyo confirms the stereotypes that we all know of Japan: cleanliness, meticulousness, discipline, etc. The organized manner in which the city operates is astounding. People are walking everywhere and they all know where to go and the most efficient way of getting there. You won’t see wasteful head-checking when crossing a street or hear loud conversations – everything glides seamlessly and quietly like an orchestrated simulation. There really is a harmony to how the city functions. It’s refreshing because the frustrations that we’ve all experienced – the obnoxious idiot talking on his cellphone in the subway, the smoker who flicks their butt onto the sidewalk, the cabby who decides to do a u-turn in rush hour and blocks both lanes of traffic – they can’t be found here. The environment will affect you immediately; you’ll find yourself sitting on the train with slightly better posture and gesturing a bow when you queue incorrectly for your designated train car. Somehow the system works too well for you to let it down.
The Tokyo subway system is the busiest in the world. Take 50 TTC systems and plop them on top of each other. Subtract the dirtiness, homelessness, scariness, and delays and you have the Tokyo subway system. Despite the system being extremely intuitive, you may find yourself the only male on a female-only train car (I was wondering why so many women were staring at me), or being ushered around by one of the dozens of “traffic force” – think white gloves, robocop helmet, red wand, and microphone for emphasizing Japanese command words – when you inevitably do something wrong.
You’ll gawk at the directional arrows posted everywhere and detailed signage, thinking: “this seems a bit excessive” but just wait until 7:30am arrives and the tsunami of suits flood into the subway. The entry ticket machines chime like the floor of a casino but you won’t hear a single word spoken. As you glide along in your particular stream, it all begins to make sense. Poor Alayna was courageous enough to leap out of her spot in our stream to take a picture and couldn’t find a way back in. I drifted away as she sat in an eddy current waiting in vain to rejoin the river. This thing is bigger than us – just go with it.
Follow your arrows and you’ll survive!