The missions trip in Iwate has ended, and I find myself fully exhausted yet fully alive.
Many of this country’s strengths, I discovered, are more apparent in the locals from the towns I visited – in Morioka and Miyako, discipline is taught through the strict system of trash disposal, with six different bins in the church kitchen for different materials. There are bathroom slippers for every bathroom- one cannot step into the toilet without removing one’s shoes and donning a specific pair. Strong communal values and good habits rule the system.
It is not this way in Tokyo, or even in Sendai.
My brother and I stay in Shinjuku, one of the noisiest and fastest moving areas in Tokyo. I wanted to stay near Shibuya because it was all I knew of Tokyo, but wasn’t aware that the specific street my airbnb apartment is in is also the street of night activity- bars, clubs, and prostitutes.
Today, 7am, we walked towards the station for the fish market. A young Japanese lady about my age had left a hotel fully clothed in dress and heels. She was alone. While we walked, two different men appeared out of shadowed shopfronts to speak and walk beside her. From body language, I could assume he was pimping. One even walked with her all the way to the traffic junction.
The light changed, and she walked quickly across the long road. Mr Pimp stayed behind and regrouped with a fat man.
This was my first waking experience of Tokyo.
I tried to tell myself that we are all sleazebags and sleazebags need God. But I felt like I was dragging my heavy heart around the fish market for the entire morning.
Lunch was no better- we visited a popular tonkatsu ramen joint. But I didn’t realise that no one liked to talk to each other. In our isolatory existence, customers prefer minimum eye contact, and ordering and payment is all done at a vending machine outside the restaurant.
I am still discovering the city and what is its heartbeat. But there are so many lights and sounds. And people are so rich materially (in Ginza at least).
Philosopher Roland Barthes wrote that in Japan, the package is a thought. The packaging that covers most of their items becomes part of the messaging, the same way the envelope is not just the vehicle for moving a letter, but part of the letter itself.
I’m still staring surface level.
God, please have mercy on a country that does not want to know You. Who will tell them?