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Sunday, 01 March 2015

10 days in Tokyo - Page 3

Written by Ben Gould
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Panoramic views of the city are afforded free of charge by visiting the Government Metropolitan Building, easily accessible on foot from Shinjuku Station.  The two observation decks on floor 45 are 663 feet high, the sights truly sublime, with Mount Fuji to the southwest visible on a clear day. Tokyo Skytree is even more impressive. A 2,080 foot high steel icon of neofuturistic architecture beside Oshiage Station, it's the world's tallest tower. My dusk visit, enjoying a pint of Asahi in the restaurant halfway up the tower as the sun departed for the day, is a memory I'll always cherish.


            View from Government Metropolitan Building


Tokyo is light-years ahead, a glimpse of the future, from the trains to the smart phones. A trip to 'Electric Town' in Akihabara unearths gadget heaven, an esoteric Toys 'R' Us. Even the street vending machines beguile me. There's not a dent in them, no hint of an act of vandalism. As a case in point, toilets warm your backside and an elite few provide conversation. An assault on the senses Tokyo may be, with cramped spaces and a sometimes overwhelming blitz of activity to absorb, but solitude can be found if you look for it – in its parks and shrines, side streets and river walkways. This sense of a city operating in the upper echelons runs parallel with one steeped deep in the past. The Muromachi period appears still extant, still breathing through the Shofuku-ji Jizo Hall, a living remnant of another age. It's a seamless melding of two civilizations.


I immersed myself in 20th century Japan before jetting off. Most beguiling was the transition from a militarily expansionist but socially inward and repressive society to a seemingly peaceful post-war paradigm (albeit under US occupation) of economic miracles and cultural innovations. The barren wastelands of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and the firebombed districts of Tokyo somehow ushered in a new epoch of universal suffrage, open discourse, and a nation with an increasingly pivotal role in the globalized economy. I struggled to reconcile these apparent opposites – only a partly realized 'Year Zero' solution presented itself; some of the old customs were kept under MacArthur's viceroyship, others discarded.


The tumultuous events of the war's end in 1945 – its veterans fading in number every year – now appear to have an increasingly superfluous impact on present-day affairs. Civic duty and a close-knit contract between representative and represented has helped ensure that Japan operates in the upper echelons of business, culture, and technology. 

(Page 3 of 5)
Last modified on Sunday, 01 March 2015

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