A Position Paper: On the matter of visiting Tokyo and Japan now


Nextaroma is not about mass tourism. The stance ”Not for tourists” featured on the site top page is not a gimmick but an expression of clear, confirmed, affirmative positioning. It is articulated from the view point that some travelers are not looking for the made-for-tourists attractions and experiences, but yearning for something like the “textures of the ordinary, the remarkable and the distinct” woven together. I quote from a remarkable entry of the London Review of Books blog dated March 9 entitled Worldwide by author John Meek. In this article you can read for free - no link policy, successful query is guaranteed - the author expands on the evolution of the world view through those images of masked citizens that get their facial featured blurred, that is, melted in the quasi-generic image of a global city human. They, we almost look alike whatever the locations vastly distant where those pictures are shot. For John Meek, the most puzzling and interesting aspect of the current globalizing of mask and fear is that his eyes are attracted by the sides of the visuals. It is something I totally share. Where the bland normality is exposed, the somewhere else - the precious ailleurs in French - is in the details, some of them. Let me reveal you something related with that in matter of travels. Whenever I visit Kyoto, I skip the for-the-tourists Nishiki-dôri. A long time ago it was a one street food market both for visitors and locals. It is now a one street food court that has nothing to do with the locals’ daily life. I look and tremendously enjoy instead and each time the covered two parallel shopping streets that Nishikidôri in effect crosses at one point. They are called Teramachi-dori and Shinkyogoku-dori. Both weave together the textures of the ordinary, the remarkable and the distinct. As far as covered shopping streets are faring in Japan - many are a dying species - these two are bright and brilliant and energetic. I can’t get enough of the urban beat walking along shops and restaurants and cafés that tell a slice of what it is about to live there, to be and feel or pretend to be a Kyotoite. 

The world “doesn’t look increasingly exotic the further we get from home”. This is another snippet from the author’s sentence I exploit on purpose, because it expresses very delicately what visitors I take care of bring back home in terms of having had a multifarious experience - sometime as short as a day in Tokyo - dotted with joy, comfort, and many good food tastes. I specialize in ushering you in with the tremendously enjoying experiences of cruising locations through the textures of the ordinary, the remarkable and the distinct. Because it is the exactly the way I travel myself, having shed away the standards, the must-see, the must-do, focusing instead on the local textures. The must-do and must-see may pop up into the picture, into the itinerary, but not in a standard manner, for instance, not at a standard time. Besides, if you are fancying about stroking cats in a café, you do not need anyone to take care of your custom itinerary. As one famous long timer in Japan wrote about Kyoto, you pay me so that I avoid you going to the touristic mundane locations, that is, the artificialities. 

I started writing this at home, then moved to Ginza, some back street, for lunch in a canteen like fish only traditional cramped restaurant. It is Thursday today and at noon, the place was full like on a Thursday. The fish lunch was delicious, a 1000 yens treat. Then I walked toward the entrance of the Ginza subway line and moved down to the platform. Ginza line is the historical first subway line in Tokyo. Designed with the London tube in mind, the trains are narrow. That is where the comparison ends: fully air conditioned and normally noisy, that is, very calm. I headed to the north terminal station, Asakusa, which is the number one touristic spot here. I was expecting the same masked human landscape but from my current point of view behind a large glass bay to the street now, I see a mix of mask wearers, and some not. Even the few remarquable Western tourists are not all keen to care about a mask. The shopping streets are thinly crowded but nothing remarquable. Let’s say they are comfortably crisscrossed by a variety of visitors, locals, business owners, etc. You don’t see kids but this is standard within the shopping district of Asakusa. 

I shall not expand on the virus. Around me, normal less dense but ordinary life seems to go on for the time being. Shops catering for tourists goods are certainly almost empty - the locals as everywhere don’t care about these. I noticed en passant that the interesting cantina Juraku was quite empty for a lunch time. But then what? Next door was full. 

No, I shall not further expand on the virus, but instead on one clear consequence of it. The textures of the ordinary, the remarkable and the distinct are startingly visible thanks to that somewhat diluted human concentration. These days, there is less of the superficial and artificial to avoid in the navigation toward what matters that tell of the everyday good life. May will be one perfect window of opportunity to visit unless the channels of international circulation are closed, because whereas cherry blossoms usually take place early April in Tokyo - they already started in Kyoto by the way! - May is really Spring time with lush exuberant green all over the place. That includes Tokyo. If you have read so far, chances are this story rings a bell with you. Nextaroma is artisanship travel design starting from one day in Tokyo. Go back to nextaroma.com to seep in some more and inquire. 

What’s happening now at the Tokyo street level? Is it safe to travel? Is it a bad idea to travel now? When will it be a good idea to visit?

Consult with me. Down to earth experienced answers. No lip service. No sale.
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Mail: contact@nextaroma.com

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