December 5, 2012

An American in Roppongi

I had a very mellow and enjoyable day in Tokyo today, the kind that comes from feeling comfortable in and knowledgable about a city. And when that city is the largest in the world, that's quite the accomplishment.

My friend Allison and I have been messaging back and forth as she's in Tokyo promoting Frankenweenie, which she produced, so I decided to head towards her hotel in hopes that maybe I'd hear from her. She's phone-less, so communication has been spotty, but I figured if I didn't hear from her, I could at least enjoy Roppongi Hills.

And enjoy I did!

She's at the hotel where I stayed on my second trip to Japan, so I knew the area a bit. I remembered enjoying a tree-lined street that began at the hotel and ended at Tokyo Tower, so I made my way there, found a seat at a café and pulled out my laptop so I could write.

If I were Gustave Eiffel, I would sue.
This homie was mean-mugging me the entire walk

I know the feeling

Alright, you caught me, that "little café" was a Starbucks.
Roppongi Hills has lit up for the holidays
It was very pleasant to sit outside even though the temperature has dropped into the 50s. The fine folks at Starbucks were kind enough to provide heat lamps, so even as the sun set, I was able to enjoy being outside while watching couples stroll hand in hand. And because I had stayed in this area before, it felt familiar and comfortable. I'm not sure what that phenomenon is, but I know that the human brain excels at spacial mapping and recognition, so perhaps the comfort arose from already having had mapped out this area. That, and my trip to Japan when I stayed in Roppongi Hills was really enjoyable, so I'm sure old memories were triggered. I passed a hot chocolate shop where Richard and I wandered to one evening but now that I actually know the exchange rate between dollars and yen, I did not buy anything. 

I wasn't able to connect with Allison, but I did hear from Aziz who told me that he was taking James, and Natasha to dinner as it was their last night before heading back to England. I checked the train schedule, packed up my computer and made my way to the station. I caught my train, got off at Aziz's stop (which is not what the station is called, FYI), made my way to his apartment, buzzed myself in and found the gang.  I say this all to demonstrate how comfortable I've become here in Tokyo. What once seemed like an infinitely large sprawl of neighborhoods connected by hundreds of subway lines has now become familiar. I can keep my headphones in while making my way through the city without the fear of missing my stop and have grown more comfortable navigating the underground tunnels that connect so many stations.

In order to commemorate James and Natasha's trip to Japan, the four of us went out for burgers. Not Japanese burgers, which come without a bun and are served on a sizzling grill, but big, sloppy American burgers served to the album "Born to Run".


The night concluded with a very impressive demonstration by Aziz of how to complete a Rubik's cube. I've set out on goal 65, but the online tutorials were tough to follow. I can now solve one side of the cube without much struggle, but when Aziz completed the entire cube in 2:37 I realized I had my work cut out for me. 

That's it, that was my day. I won't try to embellish it into some exciting adventure because it wasn't. But it was wildly pleasant. I realized not everyday has to be exciting; that it's perfectly alright to sit at a Starbucks for the better half of the day and just enjoy the passing of time. I did take a look at my remaining goals and started to formulate a plan for how to knock out as many as possible in my remaining month. Some are now impossible (summiting Mt. Fuji in December requires proper gear, guides, and... oh yeah, the desire to scale a mountain the freezing cold Winter) while others are still out of my control (I missed an earthquake in Tokyo while I was in Okinawa) but there are still dozens of things to complete. I hope you will all forgive me if I change "go to a cat café" to "go to a bunny café" as this seems far more bizarre.

Oh, that reminds me! I've created a new goal: Become a cartographer. At dinner we were discussing how baffling the art of cartography must be. How in the world did anyone make maps before the ability to get a birds eye view of things? We spent a good 10 minutes marveling at this ability until I realized that I bet it's a lot easier than one would think. So as a goal, and having nothing to do with Japan, I have decided to spend an afternoon mapping out a park to the best of my abilities using only a pencil, paper, and my feet. I've started to concoct a strategy and will be very curious to compare my work with Google Maps. I think the real challenge will be figuring out what park is appropriate to map (not too big, not too small) without looking up a map of the park.

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