In Tokyo, you can find this almost seamless mixture
of popular culture and Japanese traditional culture.
Between earthquake and typhoon
In the framework of an international research project, which included a former group from the RIKEN Research Center for Sustainable Resource Science, we organised our first Kick-off meeting at RIKEN in Yokohama, Japan. It was my very first visit to Asia and Japan, and it was really mind-blowing what we were offered on this short trip of only two and a half days. Starting out with a moderate earthquake of 4.8 on the Richter scale, when we were visiting the installations at the RIKEN laboratories, and finishing with a full-grown typhoon, which nearly cancelled our return flight to Spain. Unfortunately, there
was no time to extend the trip for a few more days to better explore the country, because of my teaching obligations. Man, I would have loved to see some more of Japan, like for instance Kyoto – the cultural capital of Japan – or the northernmost Hokkaido island, with its hot springs and harsh climate. Nonetheless, we had the final day off to visit downtown Tokyo and to have a good look around. Tokyo is huge, busy, and breathtaking. At the same time, you find more quiete and traditional locations, like the Sensoji Temple in Asakusa or the Meiji Shrine in the Shibuya neighbourhood.
Organisation at a completely different level.
What made the trip to Tokyo so great was, not at least, the delicious Japanese food and the completely outstanding level of public organisation. It takes a ton of community spirit to warrant the seamless coexistence of nearly 14 million people in the greater Tokyo area. The strict civil organisation manifests, e.g., in substantial amounts of school uniform wearing pupils going in single file in the townscape, or drown footprints on the ground that explain how to queue correctly. In particular, the zebra crossings attracted my attention, because they also crossed the road junctions diagonally.
On the other hand, I was very surprised by the mixture of traditional elements, such as Temple and traditional clothing, with the vibrant modern Tokyo that seems to never sleep. Countless skyscrapers, shopping center, and parks shape the urban appearance of the city. In fact, a city like Tokyo deserves to be seen from as high a vantage point as possible. Thus, we went up to the visiting platform of one of those towers, and we expectations were not disappointed, although we had no luck with the weather. In very essence, I will definitely try to visit Japan again, but next time I will bring more time. This is for sure!