Love Letter to Japan / by Deborah Clague

I'm a sucker for neon lights. They are tacky, yet mesmerizing. Kinda like Britney Spears. And no one does them better than Tokyo. I thought I would be able to witness their technicolour luminosity from above upon approach at Narita Airport, but instead I was met with the stark, sobering visual of a looming, sprawling metropolis housing one of the highest density populations on the planet. Skyscrapers seemed to jut higher than the surrounding mountain range. Traffic coiled around freeways as wide as football fields. With a squint of my eye, I swear I saw Godzilla approaching from the East. I couldn't blame him. Tokyo is THE place to be. 

I often look forward to inhaling my first deep breath when traveling to a new country; scent can be educational and often (but not always) enhances the overall experience of being in a distant land. When I traveled to China, my olfactory senses were met with the allure of cooking oil (and, sadly, heavy pollution). In England, I got the sense that they smoke a lot of cigarettes, drink a lot of ale and eat a lot of curry. Japan didn't really have much to offer in this regard though. It smelt like...Canada. Clean. And it was clean. Immaculately so. The roadways were so pristine, I imagine a team of magical sprites scrubs them down with toothbrushes each evening. There wasn't any litter either (which was odd, seeing as there were so few garbage/recycle bins). 

Our main hotel was located in Kabukicho, the entertainment and *ahem* red light district of the City which is also home to the world's busiest train station (Shinjuku). It is said that almost 4 million people pass through it EACH DAY. I concur, it was a sea of humanity. I avoided rush hour like the plague (when white-gloved station employees famously struggle to push passengers in so that the doors can close), but was still met with total lack of personal space. And by total, I mean I'm now probably carrying a fetus. I debated riding in one of the emptier "Female Only" cars, but knew that leaving my travel partner behind would only end in his disappearance from the face of the earth. 

to be continued...