I found my spot in Tokyo.
Out of all the markets, restaurants, bridges, and museums, my spot was a bench. I had just arrived in Tokyo on a solo trip, and it was my first time in Asia. I had chosen to travel to Japan because I’d just spent ten months working at a high school in Texas. I’d finished an unhealthy job and saw the demise of a once enriching long distance relationship.
I needed a fresh start. I was exhausted. Adjusting to an 11 hour time difference didn’t help. I’d also spent over a year trying to make a career and relationship work in a place where I was supposed to have been able to understand the language and the people. Maybe I’d have better luck in a place where I couldn’t understand it all.
It was June 2013, and I can still remember the cool humidity. My hand brushed the water off of my bench before I sat down in Hibiya park. My bench overlooked a carp-filled pond that was shaded by an enormous tree. Its branches extended 20 feet over the water. A dove flew right toward me and veered off at the last second to perch beside me. Sorry, birdie, but this lady had no stale bread to offer, I thought.
About 40 feet away stood a Japanese businessman wearing a black suit and a bowl hat. He puffed away at his cigar while feeding bread to a turtle. The oversized, golden carp swam about, snapping at the bread and water bugs that skimmed the surface. Drops of water fell from the branches above and landed on my face.
Hibiya was built as Tokyo’s only westernized park and it was my favorite place in the city. Sometimes, you just know you’re in the right place at the right time. The air was cool and misty. All of the plants were relishing in all the moisture. The weather was such a contrast to the heat I felt from driving across the Southwestern U.S. All I wanted to do while driving through New Mexico was blast my air conditioner in the hundred degree heat, but I didn’t want to kill my low battery.
Now, I was walking through paradise with my umbrella. There were cats everywhere in Hibiya Park. Why? Where did they come from? They glared at me as I snapped their pictures.
Cities that are bursting with people need calm, green havens like this one. Just as Central Park can numb the sound of ambulance sirens in NYC, Hibiya can, too. It was so green here-as if the trees invited you in and begged for you to breathe their cool air. I journaled for a bit, closed my eyes, and soaked in the calm. There was no place I would have rather been, especially after making the mistake of wandering into the overwhelming Sega Video Game Arcade I’d popped into earlier. I appreciated Tokyo’s introverted side more than its technological, flashy side.
After a moment of stillness in my green spot, I got up and headed for the frenzy of the bustling Shibuya district. It’s a clean version of Times Square that is famous for its diagonal crosswalk. I stood in front of this intersection and witnessed the masses flowing through, like red blood vessels being pumped in and out of a heart. Each time the light turned red, the pedestrians piled up and waited at the starting line. Once the light said “walk”, waves of people raced to the other side, as if it were 6 a.m. at a Macy’s on Black Friday.
While green parks are calming to me, places like sprawling city centers are strangely soothing to me as well. Commercials were blasting on oversized TV’s, rich kids sipped on strawberry cheesecake frapuccinos, and a girl dressed as Alice in Wonderland walked by.
Tokyo led me from a green space of tranquility to one of concrete tranquility.
This article will be featured in the March 2016 issue of Wanderlust Wellness Magazine. Subscribe here for a free monthly issue!
For more on solo travel, check out Wanderful writer Marissa’s tips!