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Japan is an ancient Empire transcending millennium. Through much of its history it has been isolationist due to geography or political will. This has shaped the Japanese people in very pivotal ways. Their culture is steeped in honor and tradition; it is unacceptable to bring dishonor upon yourself or family. Being polite and respectful is of paramount importance. You are less an individual as you are a single iteration of a long bloodline. This concept is foreign to Westerners as our culture and philosophy deem us as individuals before anything else. Their cohesive bond ties the Japanese people together and has helped with their cultural longevity. 127 million people harmoniously living on an island 26 times smaller than Canada is quite the feat, this I can assure you; courtesy goes a long way.
For every reaction there is an equal and opposite reaction – or whatever Newton said, right? Que crazy, bizarre, Tokyo. All that repression had to manifest itself somewhere – and it did. Tokyo’s got pockets of crazy emerging out of the methodical machine that makes it so unique. Quasi-sexy, anime, Victorian era, maids that clean your ears, compliment cafes where one pays to have cartoonish complimentors boost your ego (this is something the West should look into). Mario kart dress up and driving through the streets of Tokyo (I actually see the merit in this one too). Occupational sudden mortality Karōshi (過労死) or working yourself to death. You get the idea – there’s some wonky stuff in this city.
The juxtaposition of these two concepts couldn’t be more stark. No homeless or deranged people (this strikes you immediately if you come from a North American city – on second thought, maybe it’s best not to ask what their solution is..) but some of the strangest erotica in the world. Preserving honour and respecting the elderly but intertwining sexuality and cuteness.
Despite the oddities and extremes, Tokyo is my favourite city I’ve ever travelled to. It’s extremely livable. The air quality and transportation systems are fantastic. There is ample green space with immaculate gardens. The city is noticeably quieter than any other city I’ve been to (no honking, electric cars, very little traffic, etc.). The prices are very reasonable compared to other major cities, New York, London, etc. (finding a 10CAD lunch is easy to do). World class venues, restaurants, bars, experiences, and some of the most well mannered and polite people I have ever interacted with.