Wednesday, June 6, 2012

A City of Many Faces

Kagurazaka / Roppongi / Akihabara 


I.  I exit the subway and rise into a quiet, sleepy part of town. Even though the skies had earlier threatened rain, the afternoon sun is beaming gently. It's 3 pm.
We pass small cafes and a tiny local gallery that we wander through, observing the black and white photography adorning its walls. At another corner, we find a worker outside McDonald's offering free ice coffee samples to passerby.

Off the main street, one path leads us to a very modern-looking shrine with a few inquisitive visitors.
Next, we discover a park rowdy with the laughter and shouts of many children playing. Nearby, we enter a quiet cafe with only about five tables, and interesting knick-knacks decorating the place. I order a slice of banana nut cake, and we relax in the gently simmering atmosphere.

Stumbling across a showcase of a tonbo-dama (Japanese glass bead) artist, I delight in the intricate and magical designs. The glass artwork capture the light perfectly and sparkle out as if calling to me.

As we continue down the main street, more activity and noise begins to emerge. The sleepiness melts into a shopping district, complete with family restaurants, fancy French places, and even a flashing arcade. Smells of food reach out to entice my stomach.



II. A bustling business district during the weekdays, Roppongi is alive with city lights, shoppers, and sightseers on the weekend. From the subway, we head up onto the streets and toward a looming building above - Roppongi Hills.


Still a dusky grey-blue upon our arrival at the observatory, the sky slowly darkens to inky black, and the city lights blink on across Tokyo.




III. Late afternoon. The weather is mild and summery as we walk.
Even places where we have walked and things we have seen hundreds of times before... they can look so different through another lens, another perspective, with another person by our side.


Akihabara is a fast-paced city of pop culture and electronics stores. Maids in costume invite sightseers to their cafes; restaurants and food stands are scattered along the crowded streets, between digital displays and manga/video shops.
Unable to resist the mouth-watering smell, we order two pieces of chicken from KFC for a snack. The first bite is heaven.


Whether it is a place I visit for the very first time,  a place I've been a few times, or a place quite familiar to me, the many faces of Tokyo continue to spark and capture my curiosity. There is something about this city that I can't quite put my finger on.
Perhaps that is because it has so many different parts, views, and energies, some changing and flowing with time, and some remaining ever the same.