“I no naka no kawazu, taikai o shirazu”
This is an ancient Japanese proverb which translates to “a frog in a well cannot conceive of the ocean”
I was one of the fortunate few who got to traverse the elusive Far East Japan.
My first glimpse of Japan was through the 1966 hit Hindi movie ‘Love in Tokyo’, the very first movie to be filmed in Japan. Watching it as a little girl growing up in the 1990’s socialist India, I was amazed, astounded and astonished at how advanced Tokyo was in the 60s. They even had escalators then! I had dreamed of travelling abroad from my younger age. But Japan was beyond my wildest dreams! So it was unbelievable and unimaginable when my program manager called me and told me to apply for a Japanese visa and get there in a jiffy. Blessings if working in the Indian IT industry! I went about preparing for my trip with extreme excitement, exuberance and exhilaration. At last the 19th of January 2019 dawned bright and sunny. I rushed off to the airport and boarded the Malaysia airlines flight to Tokyo via Kuala Lumpur. The flight was long and the time zone differences made me goweary. I slept for most of the flight. I awoke to the captain announcing that we were 10 minutes from landing at Narita International Airport and to fasten our seatbelts. I looked out of the window and was greeted by a magnificent sight. Even though it was very early, the sun had risen in its full glory. It looked like a fiery orange ball, and the orange rays stripping the sky makig it a beautiful painting. I had arrived at Nippon, the Land of the Rising Sun!
I landed at Narita International Airport and set my first foot on Japanese soil. I stepped outside in the icy cold Tokyo morning. I hailed a cab and was told that I would be charged a whopping 25000 yen for an hour’s drive into the city. I wondered if I was being taken for a ride. We literally flew at 130 km/hr. I enjoyed the unfolding scenery of sleek highways and flyovers. The sight was intimidating in its sophistication. We soon reached my apartment building. Though well -travelled, it took a bit of ingenuity and reasoning from my side to navigate through the many unfamiliar security contraptions, before I entered my tiny box-like apartment. Tokyo being the most expensive city in the world, getting this tiny bit of space at a central location was luxury. Also the dearth of human resource makes investing in high end automation rather inevitable. The apartment was so neat you could eat off the floor. The various appliances were neatly tucked away so as to provide all comforts without taking up more space. I also found that Japanese doors slides sideways instead of opening out forward. Exhausted, I jumped into bed and fell into a deep dreamless sleep.
The next morning, I was greeted by the sight of swarms of Tokyans impeccably dressed in starched business suits striding briskly and purposefully to their workplaces. Some were even running. It was my first glimpse of business like Tokyo. I went to the station to go to office by the ubiquitous Japanese metro. People were too much in a hurry to even answer my queries. I somehow managed to reach the clients office on time without losing my way, by changing 2 trains. I patted myself on my back for my achievement. At office, I was welcomed very warmly by a tall, fair and handsome Country Manager. I was privileged to be working on the first 5G implementation in the world. The Japanese are as peaceful as doves and as polite as wax. They naturally form queues as straight as a ruler everywhere from stations, cash counters to even mundane washrooms. You are not allowed to talk on mobile phones in public trains. The extreme discipline can be stuffy at times.
The next weekend on Saturday, I went for a Tokyo city tour. We were taken to the 40th floor of the World Trade center building. The scene outside from so high up took my breath away. Tokyo was filled with magnificent skyscrapers, flyovers and gardens. It was truly a sight to behold. We then went for an hour long boat ride in Tokyo bay. The buildings lining the bay were equally breathtaking. The bridges and the buildings with the sun setting formed a very pretty picture. I snapped away at my camera capturing memories for posterity.
The next day I went on a tour of Hakone, a hill station on the outskirts of Tokyo. The landscape of Hakone is as different from Tokyo as chalk is to cheese. Whereas Tokyo is covered with skyscrapers giving an urbane, sophisticated air, Hakone is filled with untouched nature’s bounty. We passed through beautiful mountains covered with exotic flora and fauna. We stopped to view the snowcapped Mt. Fuji, the highest peak and volcano in Japan. In Hakone, we went up the mountain by Ropeway.
Hakone is a serene hill station with great resorts and a placid lake, ideal for a getaway from busy, bustling Tokyo. I travelled back to Tokyo by the Sinkasen or the bullet train. The bullet train thundered past at the snap of my fingers with an ear splitting sound that made me jump out of my skin.
Inside the bullet train, I watched in awe as the varying landscapes whizzed by like lightning. We covered a distance of 70 km in just 15 minutes! The power of Technology!
The next day I travelled back to India with a heavy heart. Marvelous country aside I had also made valuable close friendships. Japan is a country with very diverse landscapes and a rich and varied culture, history and heritage. I wondered if I would ever see Japan again. It’s too expensive and out of reach for many. But I was very grateful and thanked the Almighty with all my heart for such a rare opportunity. My Japan trip will forever be etched in my memory. I had fallen in love with the elegant, exotic and exquisite Tokyo.
Ms. Zarine Susan George
Business consultant, Kochi