Tokyo, it’s been too long

25 May 2008 at 17:43

There’s a statue outside of Shibuya station dedicated to Hachiko, the legendary Akita who faithfully waited for her owner every night, even long after he passed away.

I didn’t think much about it until my flight in April from SFO to NRT was in the air, but I spent almost ever other summer in Japan when I was growing up. After 8 years away (far too long in retrospect), would it still feel the same? Had the long economic malaise sapped the country of its vitality?

I was happy to see that while much of the urban landscape of Tokyo had changed—in particular, mega-projects like Roppongi Hills, Tokyo Midtown, and Omotesando Hills were all new to me—the essential character of place hadn’t. The dynamic energy, frenetic pace, and fantastic food were still there, just enhanced by the continued organic evolution of the city.

And that’s what I like most about the place, the jarring discontinuity—no doubt a legacy of the urban planning done by warlords from centuries past. Unlike other cities, Tokyo juxtaposes new and old, with seemingly little concern for continuity. Perhaps it’s wabi-sabi writ large. Regardless, I’m looking forward to going back in June—and much more in the future. Like Hachiko, Japan waits patiently for me to return.