Sunday, July 4, 2010

Tokyo is Paradise

I remember me and TZF crew were talking about how great Tokyo is, and one of us made a comment how a reputable game site’s team went there and had a terrible time. They complained about the stares, culture shock, racism, and overall bad hospitality they experienced. I was pretty surprised.

To be honest, I had many reservations before I went. I’ve always loved Asian history and culture, so it wasn’t JUST an otaku on board going to Tokyo. Like anything you have wanted to do, if you haven’t experienced it, you will always put it on a pedestal. I had that in the back of my mind the entire time. Will I force myself to love Japan because I’ve built it up for the last ten years? Will I go there and be completely miserable the entire time? For a country that is also so ethnocentric, it’s a little scary. The fact that I’m an African American also made me a bit weary because I’m going to a place where the likes of me is few and far between. Again though, being black really wouldn’t really be the problem, just being anything other than Japanese...and Tommy Lee Jones.

Regardless, I made the plunge and was on my way to Tokyo at the end of last year for New Years. It was a memorable experience. Well that was an extreme understatement. Anyways, all my fears quickly dissipated. Tokyo much to my surprised was filled with foreigners. After seeing dozens and dozens of Japanese cuties walking around, I could always count on a random awkward looking 6’5 European coming around the corner. If I received any stares they were immediately followed by courteous smiles, and at times a conversation. I’m a shy person by nature, but I ended up probably talking to more strangers in Tokyo in a two-week period, than I would have here in two years.
Were we ever refused service? No. Were we ever-barred entry from places that weren’t sordid? Nope, and I’m not going to explain myself on that one. We participated in traditional New Years festivities, and in my opinion I think the people around us appreciated that because we were making an effort to learn and enjoy their customs.

Like any travel destination, just use your head. If I’m traveling anywhere, whether its Salt Lake City, Mogadishu, or Dubai, I’m going to educate myself. I’m going to know what to expect and if anything, I am going to do my best to respect the culture. I think if one thing Japanese people and most foreign countries can’t stand is the lack of effort. If you or someone is wondering how you may be treated going to Tokyo, all I can say is just go for it. You will be surprised. If you go in with an open, fun loving mindset, you will walk out with a trip that you will remember for the rest of your life. There are always more terrific experiences than bad ones, and if you go into that situation with a negative temperament, odds are you will be wasting your money. Better yet, it may be best if you don’t go outside the ten-mile radius of your current town.

I’m an African American, and I had one of the best times of my life in Tokyo. A cherry blossom on top would have been a night with Aya Hirano, but you can’t have everything.

Keep it Savory