Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Back in Tokyo for the third time since moving to London

I felt dizzy when I arrived at the fastidiously clean Tokyo Narita Airport. In comparison, London Heathrow looks dim and scruffy.

As a pastime on the Virgin Atlantic plane, I bought Time Out City Guide Tokyo. Reading this guidebook is a revealing experience. It gives a different angle to what's so familiar to me. (I was born and bred in Tokyo until the age of 24.)

From the airport, I took a coach that directly took me to my hometown Koiwa. Last time I came back a year ago, there wasn't such a coach service. My hometown is quite out of the way in Tokyo. It is a town where people don't seem to be interested in going abroad. (Actually, my dad has been abroad only twice in his entire life, and my mum only once.) Fair enough, I was the only passenger on the coach. The ticket cost 1,500 yen (7.5 quid or 14 bucks). But I bet the charge for driving on motorways is more than that (Japanese motorways all charge you a lot of money). I asked the driver if there is any demand for this coach service. He said, "If it's the holiday season, the demand is high." Notoriously, Japanese people take very few holidays in a year. Although it was very convenient for me (it just took one hour to Koiwa railway station), I suspect this service will be discontinued by the time I come back home next time.

Through the coach windows, I saw an awful lot of high-rise residential buildings that look all the same (but by far tidier than the ones in London's East End) and a dozen of 'love hotels'. After the coach took off from the motorway, I noticed quite a few small manufacturing factories and, for some reason, fishing tool shops.

It's so different from where I live in London. But when the coach went across the bridge over Edogawa River, I felt nostalgic.

I got off the coach and took a walk to my house. Only a year made my hometown a facelift. A third of shops on high street have changed. A couple of new residential high-rise buildings are under construction.

As expected, when I arrived at my house, I felt I became taller: Japanese furniture is made for short people.

I talked to my parents. I have a bit of trouble talking to them on the international phone call. But coming face to face with them, conversations naturally flew. Our family is not good at talking on the phone.

I'm so confused. This is my hometown. So it should be so familiar to me. But at the same time, a tremendous degree of difference between London and Tokyo caused me a counter culture shock. I don't know where I am now.

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