Last weekend ten pupils and two teachers made a trip to experience Tokyo. The massive sprawling city has a population equal to Shanghai’s, but a very different feel.
During the two days, the group had the opportunity to visit the local markets in the morning, take in the hustle and bustle of Asakusa, wander around a tranquil Buddhist temple and then the Tokugawa gardens. Visits to the local museums were also a part of our trip, where we learned that different people tell the same story in different ways.
Besides these must-see sights, we were also able to avoid the beaten path, taking a lengthy walk through the center of Tokyo to the Imperial Palace, like a local. Getting out of the taxi allowed us to experience the city authentically by exploring the twisty streets we happened to find, and observing the routines of the local crowds. A nighttime stroll to the shrine at Asakusa charmed us, as the dimly illuminated lanterns lit up the temple precincts.
Food was another important element of our trip. We tried one of Japan’s many borrowed traditions – ramen. From the ambience of the ramen shop to their rules of slurping, what people eat and how they eat explained a great deal about the society, the history behind it and the general outlook on life. So did the very artful and unique Sushi dining experience at night, which provided us with an opportunity to see how much skill is required to make the delicacy. Only when we saw and tasted, were we finally able to understand the fact that it takes longer to become a Sushi chef than it does a doctor.
The whole trip offered us an authentic, down-to-earth, traditional Japanese feel. But we were also amazed by the modernness of the country with the shopping mecca Ginza, featuring myriad neon lights.
The importance of these trips cannot be underestimated. An opportunity to experience life in a foreign city brings with it a chance to challenge how you see the world. Different customs, different foods, different ideas all roll into one another and give the tourist an appreciation not only of who they are visiting, but also time to reevaluate their own country, lifestyle and customs in comparison.