Here it is (a groove, slightly transformed...my bad, force of hip hop habit), the second to last installment of my 2014 Travel Year Review. Aw yeh, aw yeh (Rock dat! See what I mean...).
So I made my way from Prague, Czech Republic to Tokyo, Japan via a 5 hr layover in London. Once again my short term goal was to sleep when I could in order to stay awake when I arrived in Tokyo at 9am and not lose a day. Because my conference was in Yokohama I had to make my way from Tokyo Narita Airport to Yokohama via train. There are various kinds of lines in Japan making it particularly challenging to navigate initially. Multiple train companies mean that if you decide to buy an unlimited card for one system it may not actually take you where you want to go because another company may operate that line you actually need. Not fun or convenient, but manageable. I stayed at a very bare bones spot called Hostel Zen, small single room with a shared bathroom. Nothing to write home about. The first two days I did the Yokohama and International Sociology Association conference deal.
This is what the subway map looked like.
And subsequently, this is what I looked like. If you don't know what this look is, some would call it "confusion."
The conference opened with some sociologist zingers and Michael Burawoy dropping knowledge of sorts.
These performers did their thing.
The next day I played conference hookie and ventured out into Tokyo. It was both cool and exhausting. And not exhausting necessarily because of how tired I'd been from traveling to four countries in Europe before my arrival, which was only made worse by my overpacking. And not just because of all the people dipping and diving around Tokyo, because come on, I live in NYC. But just what it took out of me to navigate such an unknown space alone. I think it's important to punctuate this a bit, not to cause travellers' panic, but because it's crucial for many as they venture out dolo in the world. I've discussed this before. Understand that it's not uncommon to feel a sense of unease. Just leaving the hotel takes a certain degree of courage, figuring out how to get from A to B, how to feed yourself, how to work through being such a visible outsider, how to be someone in a strange place. All of these feelings had been swirling around within me and at this particular point I really became officially over solo travel.
But hey, I was still fortunate enough to be in Japan. Gotta keep it moving. I did just that and ran around Tokyo. First stop, Shibuya.
You never know what kinds of stories you'll hear when you're abroad. The nature of the circumstances leads you to converse with people you may not have otherwise. This is Catherine Fisher. She and I struck up a convo over accessories in a department store. The article I hold in my hand came out the day before we met. She'd just released her book, I Am Catherine Jane, which details her survival and fight as the victim of rape by a U.S. Navy sailor in Yokosuka. I told her I would share her story.
I ate then made my way on foot from Shibuya proper, I guess you could say, to the Harajuku section of Shibuya. I captured this video on the way because it is distinctly what I call a "sound of Tokyo" in all its cutesy and kind of annoying splendor.
Before I went deep into the Harajuku neighborhood I went to the Shinto shrine Meiji Jingū, something completely opposite of the above video. It was this peaceful, green oasis in the middle of the city.
These were the personal prayers and messages of gratitude for the deities enshrined at Meiji Jingū which I could actually read and stood out for various reasons.
Then it was off to the fashionable and festive, Harajuku neighborhood of Shibuya.
I call the next series of pics "???"
And these are from the "you're welcome" collection.
I rolled back to Yokohama on the "Women Only" car which I'd discussed in the article I wrote on street harassment for The Shadow League some time ago. It was a reminder of what things have been put in place to protect women from the sort of unwanted touching I'd experienced on the subway car in Chile.
The next day I distributed my work at the ISA conference in Yokohama.
I'd always thought the Pokemon thing in Japan was exaggerated. Turns out, not so much. They really do STILL love them some Pokemon in Japan. It was everywhere.
During the wee hours of the morning I wrote the only blog post I would come to write while actually in Japan called "Scars." I think the shit is deep, but what the hell do I know?
I always appreciate a good travel mash up. Meeting up with the Danish girl I met in Ecuador in Copenhagen. Kicking it with my Colombian crew in New York. Hanging tough with one of my New York besties in Cairo, Egypt. I had two great mash ups in one day in Japan. You may recall this lovely cast of characters from the Vienna, Austria trip only a few weeks earlier. We all met up for lunch at the conference.
One of the things I noticed in Japan is how often I saw people wearing things that were written in some seriously grammatically incorrect English. At one point I thought maybe it was purposeful, but in the end I thought not. Here the urban sociologists are posing in front of the trendy Urban Research Make Store. Wait, huh? Yeh, I don't know either.
Later that night the mash ups continued as I got to kick it with my fellow urban sociology, PhD hustling cool kid, Nelson, in Shimokitazawa and Shibuya (Soon we'll be in Italy! Woo hoo!).
Next stop, Kyoto!!