Two weeks ago, I sat watching the closing ceremony of the Rio Olympic Games, mesmerized by the colorful extravagant performances. Towards the end, the focus turned towards Tokyo – the host of the 2020 Summer Olympics and my home for the next year. The scene was filled with things that I’ve grown to love about Japan – innovation and creativity with origami-based costumes, lighthearted appreciation of pop culture with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe appearing from a Super Mario warp pipe, and views of the country’s natural beauty projected via lights and shadows.
In just a few short days, I will find myself traveling from one national capital to another, traversing the bridge between Western and Eastern society. Though I’ve had years of experience learning about Japan, its culture, and its language, I still feel anxious and unprepared, especially with regards to the sheer size and population of Tokyo. Coming from the suburbs of central Virginia, I’ve felt that Washington D.C. is large and populous enough. D.C. is completely dwarfed by Tokyo, which has about 14 million living in the city proper, and almost 40 million people in the greater Tokyo area (which is about 30% of the entire population of Japan!). While I’m not claustrophobic, I’m not the kind of person to enjoy being in huge crowds of people and tourists, especially on trains.
Still, despite the prospect of intimidating crowds, I’m super excited for what’s to come. Having spent the past six months becoming more involved in Japan-related activities and organizations in the D.C. community, from interning with the National Cherry Blossom Festival to the Embassy of Japan, I’ve shared my excitement and amassed a huge list of tips, must-see places, must-do activities, and new information from friends and mentors who have all held similar interests in Japan and U.S.-Japan relations. I can’t wait to see the annual Snow Festival in Hokkaido, reconnect with friends around the country, hop between animal cafés in Tokyo, and revisit the places I went to from my first trip to Japan as part of a summer program three years ago. By the end of the year, I hope to be able to impress my Japanese professors with my new language skills, to feel immersed in Japanese culture and society, to embrace my inner child with the latest video games and technology, and perhaps most importantly, to have learned more about myself along the way.
For now, however, I’ll have to finish packing my enormous suitcases, wonder about how to pass the excruciating fourteen-hour plane ride, and face the possibility of arriving in Tokyo on a dark and rainy evening. But hey, it’s all part of the experience!
Until next time!