Tokyo Feels Like An Old Friend

02.September 2012


Walking the narrow streets and alleyways near our tiny Tokyo apartment I am filled with a sense of comfort and familiarity.

The air is warm and humid even at this late hour. The smoke from yakitori stands beckons me, filling my nose with the aroma of chicken and pork. As the doors to izakayas and sushi joints are drawn open I can hear the call of those behind the counter welcoming the new guests or wishing those leaving a good evening.

Tokyo Street Scene

I cannot understand a word that is said. And I love it.

We are outside of the hustle and bustle of downtown Tokyo; 20 minutes down a local train line where we can feel the ebb and flow of a real neighbourhood. In the morning school girls make their way to the high school down the street as salary men and office girls head the other way toward the train station. In the evening the flow is reversed and those yakitori stands, izakayas and sushi joints fill with men and women grabbing a quick meal on their way home.

Tokyo's Nishi-Ogikubo Train Station

I love the closeness of the streets; it feels cocooning and welcoming. I love that the mix of pedestrians, bicycles, cars, scooters, buses and trucks all organically weave together on the narrow roadways. I love that, although we are clearly different, the formality and politeness of Japan dictates that we are not stared at but, should we need help, someone will help us immediately.

Tokyo's Nishi-Ogikubo Neighborhood

It is quiet. Thirty six million people live in Tokyo – that is the entire population of Canada – and yet Jason and I can walk down the street and have a quiet conversation. And yet it is not quiet. We had an evening in an izakaya where raucous laughter spilled out into the alley and we were drawn in by the possibility of a good time – we were not disappointed.

Tokyo's Nishi-Ogikubo NeighborhoodThe food is familiar, and yet different. We enjoy a lot of Asian and Japanese food at home but here we are not sure of how it all works. There are particular places to go for particular types of food and we haven’t figured it all out yet. For now we stumble about, probably breaking as many rules as we are following, happy to take it as it comes.

Tokyo Ramen ShopTokyo feels like an old friend. I am loving being back in Asia.

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14 Responses to “Tokyo Feels Like An Old Friend”

  1. Dawn Says:

    AH! KNEW you would love it!!!!! So happy you are having a nice time. Japan is magical. The order, the cleanliness, the quietness….thing s that don’t seem like they belong in a city as large as Tokyo. Sigh. You are making me miss it all over again.

  2. dami Says:

    Tokyo seems like such a cool place to go to.. It is at the top of my list of places to go although its incredibly expensive..

    Ill just live my dream through you for now lol

  3. Steph (@ 20 Years Hence) Says:

    I don’t know what it was about Tokyo, maybe because we were all wonky when we landed in Japan and needed some time to find our travel feet, but Tony and I just didn’t connect with the city very well. It wasn’t until we started exploring other cities in Japan that we began to feel that yes, we were finally here in Japan and began to fall in love. I will say this though, having visited 12 different places since being here, Tokyo is definitely a city unlike any other in Japan! So glad to hear that your trip is off to a great start and can’t wait to hear your thoughts on Kyoto!
    Steph (@ 20 Years Hence) recently posted..The Time we Ate at the Japanese Cheesecake Factory

  4. Glenda Says:

    Thank you for this brilliant post! Your ‘way with words’ never ceases to amaze. So glad Tokyo is feeling so comfortable for you. Can’t wait to hear more about it. Japan is definitely on my ‘go to’ list and I’m sure it will be even more so when I hear all about your trip!
    Glenda recently posted..Paper Smooches Sparks Challenge – Trend Watch

  5. Daniel McBane - Funny Travel Stories Says:

    I really liked Tokyo too. I lived there for a year and looking back, it was has probably been my favorite of all the cities I’ve lived in. The food played a huge part in that, of course.
    Daniel McBane – Funny Travel Stories recently posted..What a Crappy Children’s Book!

  6. Leigh Says:

    So glad to hear this trip is starting out on such a positive note. I hope it continues that way and you both have a blast.

  7. Carmel Says:

    Sounds heavenly.

  8. Gareth @ borebags Says:

    You post somes up exactly how I feel about Asia, although I’ve never been to Japan. My time spent working and travelling in Southeast Asia are some of the best times of my life.

    Although Vietnam was a very foreign environment at the start, it quickly began to feel like an old friend. I became very comfortable there and it began to feel like home.

    Every time I thing about Southeast Asia a experience a rush of nostalgia and excitement, and is a region that has stole a huge chunk of my heart.
    Gareth @ borebags recently posted..Becoming a yes man – Driving in Saigon

  9. Mike Says:

    I love Japan and was there in March. It is such a different country than most and you feel safe regardless of you area. The food is fantastic! Please eat some “Udon Noodles” for me.

  10. Gay Travel Herald Says:

    I’ve been lucky enough to travel to Japan several times over the last year and while I had been to Tokyo many times, it was only in the last few trip that I came to love it. It was only when I started getting out and exploring on my own that I realized just how amazing a city it truly is.
    Gay Travel Herald recently posted..Picture perfect: Tokyo manhole

  11. Ali Says:

    I love that mix you described about quiet and noisy, familiar and different. Andy really wants to go to Japan, and it sounds so interesting reading your experiences there!
    Ali recently posted..Disadvantages of Taking a Tour

  12. remy the blogger Says:

    I found it is like a city but not a city, certainly there is a unique feel to Tokyo and I have not found anywhere quite like it in all my travels. Your article helped bring back some fond memories.