The Way Home

A few days ago a note from a friend (who has also moved recently and like me is settling into her new locale) spoke of feeling a little unsettled now that the feverish busyness has passed. She put her finger on the heart of things as I struggle to reboot the blog posts.

Mid-March I mentioned returning to Tokyo-related themes after settling into my new Victoria home. However, inner tiger-mom is a mean girl who taunts: What for? Who reads it? Who cares? But as my friend lovingly describes her joy while reading my various Tokyo adventures, her words re-ignite the bliss of writing.

Though part of me feels that perhaps my Tokyo life is too much of a bygone after all these months, another part wants to keep that splendid experience and that elation alive. Truth is, it has never died. Back of mind the ikebana classes at Sogetsu Kaikan and my daily meanderings along the streets of my Minato-ku neighbourhood live on, still imbued with vibrant energy.

As if still physically present, I walk home through the rustling bamboo grove leading from Aoyama-dori toward Baisoin the local Buddhist temple—a Kengo Kuma design with the most un-temple-like facade ever.

I also pass his Kengo Kuma & Associates office across the street and often glance into the upstairs rooms. There, in the minds of the people I witness bent over their computers, splendid structures which dot the globe are dreamed.

Then my steps take me down the slope past the local school and tennis courts toward Aoyama Cemetery.

In the evenings, behind the cemetery the light-spangled city spreads eastward. Always uplifting no matter how challenging the day’s ikebana lessons, adventures or encounters, Tokyo Tower’s cheery orange greeting glows against an indigo sky.

Where the slope levels out, a small grove of trees crisscrossed with pathways houses numerous cheerful birds and marks the changing season.

Leaves which turn and drop are swept up each morning by caretakers I pass on the way to school. I greet them and they respond with huge smiles, bow and reply in kind.

In general, Japanese people who don’t know each other don’t greet each other with niceties in public. Those are reserved for acquaintances, family members and friends. However, since I am not Japanese I blithely carry on in my Canadian way as if I don’t know the local habits. As I haven’t met anyone yet who hasn’t reacted with pleasure when acknowledged and appreciated, I persist. But I digress.

Or sometimes I walk in the other direction—perhaps to post a letter, drop into the drugstore, pick up something from Peacock Supermarket or gaze into the glowing windows of Francfranc.

From across the street tantalizing lemon tarts wait and heavenly aroma of Provençal herbs waft from CITRON.

Or as I make my way along Gaien-nishi Dori and Aoyama Dori to Sincere Garden for one of Azusa-san’s wonderfully restorative reflexology treatments, the chirps and chimes of walk-signals together with the snarl of an occasional Lamborghini or whine of a Ferrari punctuate the traffic’s hum.

How does a place bore into the psyche that way? Three years in Victoria have not yet given me that gloriously elated I’m home feeling which five months spent in the few square kilometers of my Tokyo neighbourhood has.

Still, I must be honest. Any elation I knew in Tokyo was often fraught with longing for more space as well as the efficiencies and coziness—especially central heating, insulation, laundry facilities and comfortable seating—I enjoy and never take for granted in my Canadian digs.

In addition, the pedagogical methods which are quite different from the ones to which I am accustomed can be quite vexing. Adjusting to different cultural norms, too, requires heightened awareness and constant modifications in behavior.

However, the absolute worst for someone who loves language, (even more daunting than being an outsider who joined Tokyo’s millions without knowing a single soul) is the fact that I in this world I am illiterate. I spend a great deal of energy trying to comprehend the simplest things, but most of all I starve for scintillating conversation.

At the same time, in Tokyo I am creatively engaged at numerous levels, unable to keep up with capturing much less conveying the ecstatic magic of it all. What can I say? Life is full of contradictions, including the possibility that it’s probably bordering on irrational to go to such lengths and considerable expense to stick a few branches and flowers into a vase.

When my friend asks why Japan keeps calling, I can’t say. Why do people climb mountains or run marathons or write books or indulge any of the multiple compulsions commanding human beings at any given time?  For the rapture. Because it answers an urge of the heart and soul to which the reply is simple: Yes.

In my case that’s yes to beauty, yes to art and yes to rapture. Oh, yes, yes, yes!


Photo credit Tokyo Tower By Kakidai. Own work. Photo credit of Francfranc to madeintokyo.

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