on the edge,
-Robert Creeley, “Here”
I started my current journey in Tokyo–I had wanted to visit Japan for a long time, and it was my first opportunity to travel to the country. Now, I find myself back in the Land of the Rising Sun, more specifically back in the same neighborhood in Tokyo.
I was disappointed last time that I didn’t take any trips outside Tokyo–it was nearly impossible to find a room in Kyoto or Osaka for a weekend (autumn is one of the worst times to find weekend accommodation in tourist centers with a lot of outdoor activities). I wanted to return to Japan to at least see more of the country, and to reunite with friends I made.
I’ve been asked a few times why I decided on Japan so soon. The real answer to that is the price of airline tickets. When I booked my flight in May from Seoul to Rome for the end of July to attend a wedding and travel a bit, I knew I’d head back to Asia–I had a job that required me to work on Hong Kong time (little did I know that I would no longer have that job before heading back to the continent). I browsed every combination of return ticket–various Italian airports (and a few other European airports) paired with the various airports around East Asia–and Venice to Tokyo came out at $500 cheaper than any other combination of airports.
Staying in Tokyo was not a top priority when I booked my flight back at the beginning of May. I figured with the price of the flight, I could even book a budget airline flight elsewhere if I really wanted and I’d still come out ahead. Or I might find an apartment to rent in another city in Japan. As I searched Airbnb, I came up empty for my criteria–I needed a private apartment with internet, a washing machine, and kitchen within a 15-minute walk of public transportation. Well, there were plenty of options that fit that criteria, but not even close to my price range (I wanted to spend less on rent in Japan than I did back in New Jersey).
As my departure from Italy approached and my options faded, I took a chance and emailed the woman from whom I rented on my first trip through Tokyo. The apartment was a bit far from central Tokyo, but it was quiet and comfortable. Sure enough, the apartment was available. At least I knew I had a place to live while I searched for a new job and other accommodation.
Familiarity is helpful, but it can also make one lazy. Oh, it’s going to rain today? Better stay inside and do nothing. Or maybe just sleep off the jetlag (I haven’t had jetlag since I left the US last October, so this feeling really sucks right now). Or I could take my sweet time in the morning instead of rushing out to go explore parts of Tokyo I missed last time–those second and third cups of coffee aren’t going to drink themselves.
After so many months of new experiences, however, it is pleasant to see the familiar. Not much has changed in this Tokyo suburb–I noticed a new restaurant that looks interesting with reasonable prices. On my first night back, I headed to a bar I frequented and ran into the Australian expat who took me to a local karaoke bar until 5 in the morning on my last weekend here. Last night I went to the wine bar in which I used to sit for a drink to read after work and found that the waitress remembers me (guess the beard doesn’t change my appearance that much), as did one of the regular customers. All this means I don’t have to go out of my way to be social–I can easily find the people I already know.
Normally I don’t want to return to places because there’s so much more to see in this world, but I’ll accept it this time around. How do you feel about returning to destinations?