A brief typhoon passed over Tokyo the last two days with a wet sheen, rain pulverized to mist by the slow weight of the storm. This is the weather that drives readers to their books and cats to their blankets. But for the traveler, adventure continues, as evidenced by the pile of umbrellas outside each hostel for the guests to borrow.
I’ve pushed into the tourist itinerary, exploring a number of parks, landmarks, and wards of Tokyo. I’ve seen an hour’s worth of a sumo tournament, tried a number of new foods, and biked to the used bookstore neighborhood in Jinbocho. I’ve had to move to a few different hostels, and spent a good hour and a half today lost within a quarter mile of my latest residence. Wandering through the gardens of Ueno, Senso-ji, Hamarikyu, and the Imperial Castle takes the edge off feeling overwhelmed. And I admit, I’ve been feeling the low boil of overwhelming hiccups here and there.
I’ve been practicing my rudimentary Japanese often, and I’m finding some phrases work well for opening people up to helping me out. Still, there’s been lots of times when my minimal sentences and their interpretation of my broken fragments only confuses us both. I haven’t been able to get Hermes checked out yet because the cycling shop owners didn’t know any English, and I’m starting to feel those deep vibrations of worry that I’ll run into times when I most need help and I can’t get it.
Mostly, though, I think my wavering confidence comes from having not gotten on the road yet. Without a clear itinerary and only a vague understanding of how to get up to Hokkaido, I’m more afraid now than I probably will be once I’m on the road. Like waiting on a rollercoaster, the chick-chick-chick of the climbing track stopped and making way for the jittery silence of hanging over the edge, the small voice of worry starts thinking, “What are you doing? What were you thinking? Oh god, get me down from here.”
I haven’t gotten to a full-fledged freak-out. I think this is one-third because I know that so many others have done this journey and loved it, another third because I am so well-connected to the folks back home, and a third that calming voice of the wonderful present moment that’s pulling me back from obsessing about the future. But I do feel like I’ll have a number of times where I’m in some huge loop-de-loop in the Japanese Alps screaming my face off for joy and some mild terror, wondering what have I done (and, hopefully, thank god I’m doing it).
In terms of the day-to-day, all is otherwise well. The weather matched my mood this morning, but by the afternoon it had mostly cleared up, reminding me that I am as fickle as it is. I’ve made a few friends here and there (Ryan of Toronto and Fran and Helen of London, what’s up!) and I’m a pretty decent city cyclist after navigating the major roads today. I still struggle with the meat base in most of the food here, having been vegetarian for three years and not knowing enough Japanese to avoid it yet. A few more stomachaches, and either I’ll get used to it or learn to order something clean.
Thanks for reading! I’ll document more of the sights I’ve seen via photo. I figure a “how’s your brain?” post every few days will put a list of activities into perspective.