Japanese culture and lifestyles through the eyes of NHK WORLD personalities
Felicia Gonzalez appears a reporter on TOKYO EYE 2020. She first came to Japan in 2007 as a spur-of-the-moment decision to seek new experiences. She keeps busy as an event producer and band manager, still up for adventures.
A few thin whiffs of cloud pull back to reveal an amazing network of electric grids pulsing with life below me…
"Ladies and gentlemen, we are now on our final approach into Tokyo, Haneda Airport. Local time is 7:10PM. The current temperature is 24 degrees with a few scattered showers later this evening…"
The magnificent panorama of the industry zone of night time Kawasaki floats past my window.
Tokyo is quite the visual feast. Run your eyes over the iconic cityscape and witness a unique harmony in contrasts. Modernity and tradition. Japanese elements and western elements. Unstoppable innovation and the preservation of heritage. An overall calmness in the complexity of the amazing, sprawling megalopolis of Tokyo, which, although perhaps seemingly reserved and overwhelming at first, will slowly reveal its warmth, abundance and charm when you take the time to acquaint yourself a little better. You will find that Tokyo, certainly a king of a city, contains within its mass, cities within cities, within cities, each with its own neighborhoods, atmosphere, culture and identity.
The cabin starts to vibrate as the speed brakes extend…
"Cabin crew, landing stations…"
The gateway of my brain prepares to dock…
Driving through the twisting, winding streets of Shinjuku, swirls of neon lights swim across the rainy windshield like colorful koi in a rippling stream. Stepping out of the taxi, feet now firmly planted on the damp concrete, warm spring air gently fills my lungs. I'm back! A herd of plastic umbrellas expertly weave through the busy intersection without a bump or bristle, crossing the hurried people sheltered beneath on their way to…
Streets branch out in every direction, sophisticated boulevards, quaint side streets, curious alleyways and serene paths all beckon my feet eager to showcase their wares as they weave through the throbbing, vibrant energy of the business, entertainment and shopping districts, to the beautiful natural surroundings and hushed tranquility of parks and temple grounds, to everywhere in between. Each time I return, the choices are always fresh. As my feet take the plunge off the curb, my senses open up to absorb all of the wonderment and experiences waiting to unfold.
Each day waits for something to be made of it, many times in special ways you didn't even intend…
One day while admiring the exquisite kimonos displayed in a store front window the owner spotted me and gently welcomed me inside, as we spoke I learned about the beauty of Japan as expressed in kimono, about how he is the third generation of his family to continue this shop and how much he loves fireworks in the summer. His wife even presented me with my very first chance to try on a kimono. Their genuine, good-natured manner still impresses upon me today. Another time, my first ride on a city bus, I had that antsy feeling that I was far from where I should be headed and showed the driver the address I had been given. At this time, I didn't speak any Japanese. He didn't speak any English. He looked at me, then at the road, and then at the stop across the street from ours. I could see thoughts moving across his face as he checked his watch and nodded his head, eyes again moving to the stop across from us. Just then, another bus approached from the opposite direction. He signaled to that driver to open his window and then started explaining my situation to him, even to the point of reading out the address I had given. The other driver acknowledged, and gestured for me to cross the get into his bus. When I got on, I was greeted with a warm smile and the words 'No problem!' With the combined help of the driver and some kind passengers in the bus I was able to reach to my destination. Everyone waved and smiled as I got off, our small adventure coming to a successful end. As I waved back, the distinct feeling of happiness and appreciation for the benevolence of strangers settled warmly in my stomach. I didn't even have the words to ask for help, but it was given, all the way.
The underlying foundation of every great city is its citizens, who give it its distinction, its character and its aspirations. I can't count the number of times exploring has put me in touch with amazing people from all walks of life who have brought me another step closer to the heartbeat of this city.
Imagine wearing the shoes of each person back at that rainy Shinjuku crossing. Where were they going? What sights, feelings and experiences have come their way? How might those experiences shape their views? What might we learn? What might we teach? Adventure also invites us to explore one's own thinking, expanding, challenging and adjusting, not just in relation to one's own self in new surroundings, but also through the experiences of the people that we meet along the way. For all the brilliance that is Tokyo, its people give it the electric spark of live.
Adventure awaits! There are yet many hidden treasures to be discovered, not only the tangible, but also the cherished ones that can be stored within our hearts.
Having always been a bit adventurous and ready to embark on new things, the thought suddenly came to me to go to Japan and see what adventures might await. The very next week, a one-way ticket in one hand and a basic phrasebook, I was packed and on my way!
The experience was amazing! Basing myself in Tokyo, I found myself able to connect with people, both Japanese and foreign, who had come to the city full of ideas, energy, hopes and desire to create, build, work and plug into the opportunities the vast expanse of Tokyo has waiting to be tapped.