After 36 followed by 25 hours on the Trans-Siberian train last month, flying 12 hours to Tokyo was a walk in the park. A walk in the park followed by a long nap where you wake up in a mecca of neon lights and video-game-style pre-recorded voices.
Wandering the streets of Ikebukuro, Shinjuku, Akihabara and beyond, I’m observing a culture and a city that for my entire adult life people have been explaining or trying to describe to me. Yet of course it is one thing to be told about Japan and this crazy capital, yet it is entirely something else to experience it first hand.
This type of writing isn’t unique because it is found on this blog; throughout the internet, intrepid and less-intrepid travelers have been musing about Japan for as long as there has been a WWW. Before that they stuck to tv documentaries, films, novels, and I’m sure many a pamphlet.
Still, my Japanese experience is most unique in that it is shaped by all of you. You being the twitter people, the facebookers, the comment leavers, the online and offline friends. Through your recommendations, your photo-memories, and your in-person meetups, in what is a short visit to such a culture and adventure rich nation, I manage to learn and soak in more than I would have otherwise; on my own, with a guidebook.
Many would say, I’m curious to travel to Japan and far away places like that, but I would feel lost or intimidated by things I don’t understand. But the online-offline communities I have the good fortune of being a part of – the hackers, the journalists, the podcasters videobloggers, the couch surfers, the frisbee players – they all ensure that no matter what, I’m never truly traveling on my own, unless I want to.
I hear the lamenters. Those who say – ah but traveling on your own is rewarding too. Discovering things for yourself is important. I hear them and I keep this in mind as I do indeed take the time or the effort to discover things for myself. However when I turn a corner that I would not have otherwise turned, because someone walking next to me or following me on twitter recommend I do so, and I find myself somewhere magical, those fears about how things are changing, don’t seem so important.