Tuesday, June 23, 2015

The Aspie Traveler: Japan Day Seven: Reflections on the 40th Floor


There I was, seated 40 floors above Tokyo with a cup of hot chocolate in my hand overlooking the city I've been in for six days now and I was deep in thought.

Earlier today I ventured by train to Akihabara, or what is more commonly referred to as "electric town" due to, I'm guessing, all the lights. Anyway, I went by train, which was a big step for me because after my taking the wrong train in Amsterdam the last thing I wanted to do was to go far away from where I wanted to go.

Entering the station I found the ticket counter and... Now what? Looming over my head was the immense map of the train and subway system. I changed the ticket ordering screen into English and instead of giving station names it just gave prices. This did me no good so I had to look up and decipher the maze. Finally, I realized I was riding the Yamanote Line which comprises a loop around Tokyo so even if I got off at the wrong station all would not be lost. Now I just had to find the station I wanted–check, and get the price– check, insert the money and press the button and just like that I was like a citizen of Tokyo navigating the railway system. Well, not so fast.

From the night before I knew how to put the ticket into the turnstile device and you walk out the other side and take the ticket with you. Easy, right? I did so and red lights came on. Two swinging doors blocked the exit. I tried again and got the same result. The look of people I was holding up was priceless. I took a few steps back and retreated. I thought about walking the distance because I had only spent about $1.50 on the ride, but I wasn't going to be deterred again by a train fiasco. I looked at the ticket and thought that maybe I had it backwards; maybe the small slip was the big ticket and the big thing, which I thought was the ticket, was the receipt. I tried again, fearing the nasty red lights, the slamming of the doors, and the look of shame from people who probably were saying "amateur" in Japanese but instead, green lights flashed and I was off one train ride.

That had been just a couple hours prior as I continued looking out on the vast skyline of Tokyo from the 40th floor of Tokyo's World Trade Center. Traditional Japanese music was playing in the background and while I had made a couple laps of the observation deck, I was now seated staring at my hotel. In the grand scheme of Tokyo my hotel was minuscule and I myself am barely a speck of dust in this megalopolis. I started this series by asking, "What am I doing"? And eventually I asked, "What did I get myself into?" When I asked that I thought this was going to be a disaster. I thought that there was no way I'd be able to navigate without a net, I mean GPS; I thought there'd be no way that I, of all people, could navigate the social side of this bustling place.
Time marched on but I remained still and my emotions raced. It was only three months, but I do not remember this many emotions during my Amsterdam series. Again, I was moved to tears as I kept looking at the neighborhood I have called home. I could see the 7-11 where I got breakfast every morning. I've actually been very methodical at leaving the hotel right at 7:00AM, and each day the shops opening up are the same. If I had videotaped my walks I'd be unable to ascertain which day was which and that to me is magical.

As I sat there I thought about the previous. I thought about the American woman who was seated behind me on the tour and what her story was. I thought of the Singapore family beside me and wondered what line of work the father was in since he knew the chassis “CRG” and “Birel” when we passed a karting facility. My mind raced ahead to my impending departure in two days from now when I will depart this massive and majestically place and the fact that when I leave all will remain here the same way, unchanged.

As I began to mourn a loss that had yet to occur, I got up and did another lap of the observation deck and with buildings and hotels everywhere I thought that if I did this experience here 100 times I would have 100 different experiences. This place is so big that there'd be no way to get the full experience in one go. When I thought of this, I got a little excited as I thought of where I should go for my next series. I wondered if maybe I need to go to a smaller place, but then the reality that the end was marching nearer and nearer and with each street I walk down it might be the last time I walk down it.

One thing about doing this series is that I throw myself into a foreign land with minimal preparation knowing full well that I'm going to be alone. That's been the theme of this series, which on one hand may be a bit depressing but on the other is somewhat neat, I think, because I've described things I've felt for years but didn't have the words to describe them. This, though, is going to make getting reacquainted with home harder.

Emotions once again were getting the better of me as I realized that I don't want to be alone, but at the same time, as yesterday as an example, there's such a great wall preventing me from opening up. I think somewhere in Day One I said I wanted to point out the duality of Aspergers and this is it; I love being alone and on my own and yet I loathe the isolation. I've gone back and forth my entire life on this and my walls are so high. Walls? Yes, and these are two way; not only do I not allow people in I also can't simply open the door and allow myself to venture out. Speaking with my dad last night he asked if anyone on the tour yesterday spoke English and I said yes. He then asked if I spoke to any of them and I said, "Why would I do something like that?" It wasn't until I looked off towards the direction of Mt. Fuji that I thought of the people on the tour again and I smiled, in pain, at realizing the struggle it truly is battle this duality.

At this moment I realized I was falling into the trap of chasing Casper, and I thought back to my second day on the ground and the shirt "Life Is What You Make It." I have traveled further from home by myself than I ever have, gone to a place where English is uncommon, and I've had an amazing time and have written some of my deepest material ever. I had no idea what I wanted to achieve on this trip but I couldn't have imagined it going like this. While I've written a lot about my emotions and being brought to tears, what also has happened is being met by the hospitality of this great place; finding and trying new foods; conquering the fear of a new place and actually having a great time doing it.

When I took the elevator down I was ready to face the rest of my day. I couldn't mourn leaving yet because I still have a major event to attend tomorrow and a day to live to its fullest today. Sure, I'll wonder about the people whose lives I was just an extra in yesterday, but today, tomorrow, and every day are a learning experience. I can't allow myself to have a "past, present, and oblivion" view of time (that's a concept from my yet to be published second book) and I HAVE to realize that each day. If I dwell on those people, then I'll miss the people that cross my path today. It's hard; in fact I am willing to bet that the majority of you can't fully understand how hard it is to shake off the feeling of failing, or wondering, because that's what my brain does do, but I must fight it and make the most of every moment because life is an adventure and I want to make the most out of it. That being said maybe I should try karaoke tonight... On second thought...

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