sensory overload in Tokyo

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I peed in a hole in the ground.

I did. Really.

And I was lucky, if you can imagine. I was lucky because there was at least a door between me squatting over a hole in the ground and the rest of the crowd on the other side.

This was my low point in Japan. Actually, I THOUGHT it was my low point. But, looking back, I realize it wasn’t all that much of a low at all. I mean, yeah, I did have to squat over a hole in the ground to pee. And I didn’t squat very deeply, so there was that moment where I’m looking down and realizing I am actually peeing into a hole in the ground. And I’m not doing all that great of a job at it, if I must say. And then I realized that maybe THIS is why the Japanese take their shoes off before going inside their homes. Ugh.

Anyway. Yeah. I’m actually glad I did it. I am glad I had that experience because now I can say “I did that. I peed in a hole in the ground in a Tokyo train station. And I’m a better person for it.”

I think. Or something like that.

But really, Japan kicked ass. Pee holes and all. It was a sensory overload of amazing sights, smells, tastes, sounds and experiences … from the smell of incense and sound of the bells at the temples to the smells of miso soup and tea pouring from every other restaurant. From the *thhlump* sounds of the Judo students hitting the mats to the smell of the ink as the calligraphy masters taught me how to hold my brush. I watched women and men in a traditional tea ceremony and was overtaken by the beauty of a young bride’s kimono.

Sushi never tasted so good. And the noodles? Sinful. (Side note: I was getting really good with the chopsticks, if I may say …) I had two ice cream cones, one mango and one pineapple. Though it was unlike any “ice cream” here in the States. It was more of a mix between italian ice and yogurt and ice cream. Anyway … I swear to you I have never tasted any type of treat like that in my entire life. The flavor on both was so intense, and the chunks of pineapple in the ice cream was a sweet surprise.

And speaking of eating …

The streets were so clean in all of Tokyo that I swear you could eat off of them. And in a city that size?! Where is all the trash? Do they have little trash trolls that run out and sweep it up before we can ever see it? I have no idea, but man oh man, they are a clean people. That is for sure. I was in awe the entire time about the lack of trash. Everything seemed to be in its place. So big, but so clean. So tidy.

And speaking of being tidy …

When you aren’t squatting over a hole to pee, you’re most likely sitting on a heated toilet seat that does everything from make sounds while you go (privacy thing) to cleaning up for you in case you need a little help down there. (Seriously.)

Such extreme opposites. One second it’s like you’re sitting on a throne. The next … not.

But still, we certainly could learn a lot from the Japanese.

From what I can tell, the Japanese take great pride in all they do. People care about their jobs. People care to make you happy. People care to help you. Even in the subway, there is a concierge service … volunteers there to help you if you look lost. Then, when you get on the train or subway, you are again taken aback by the cleanliness. It’s as if the train had never been ridden by another human being. Seats that looked as if they had never been sat upon. Shiny. New. No stench. No puke smell. No urine smell. Just clean. (Side note: One of the craziest subway systems in the world? No problem. We kicked its ass. Easy peasy. Felt gooooood, too.)

I will say they’ve figured out this extreme heat thing, too. Everyone carries their own towel with them, to dab the sweat from their neck and brow. And my golly, I just had to get me a little Japanese towel of my very own. (Though I have yet to dab sweat with it … it’s just too cute!) I am a weather weenie and shall carry my Japanese towel in my purse as the women there do, and I shall remember the trip fondly. Even when it’s 98 degrees with 95% humidity. Yeah. Even then.

We should all take a page from the Japanese. We should all care more about our surroundings. We should clean up after ourselves better. Driving to work today, I noticed tons of trash on the side of the road and felt sick. Americans are a dirty bunch, aren’t we? What the hell is wrong with people? When’s the last time you saw someone throw a bag of trash out of their car window? Cause I have seen it recently, and it’s NOT OK.

While traveling in Japan, I didn’t have to bow to anyone (nobody bowed to me, either), but I will tell you this: When I saw this tiny toddler bow to an adult on the train, it made my heart melt. She was so perfect in every way. So cute, with her little backpack and pigtails. I admit I don’t get the whole bowing thing at first, but in that moment, it was so sweet. It was heartwarming to see a tradition living on in the next generation.

I have been lucky to travel quite a bit the past few years for my job, and I love it. I love the job. I love the people I meet. I love the stories I get to share, the photos I get to capture. I love seeing new things.

I do not love to fly, but I’m getting over it. Or trying to. It’s a little tough to see things like the temples in Japan or Hallstatt if you don’t get on a plane.

So I will continue on my adventures. For now. Because there’s still so much more to see.

Next up: Uganda. And that’s a whole ‘nother story.

Watch me as I go.

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