Writer, traveler, maker


Travel updates and occasional commentary

Tokyo day 4: Adventures with fabric and pizza

This morning's event only required our pastor, so most of the rest of the team used the chance to sleep in and do some exploring.

I got a slow start, due to trying to resolve a phone issue with T-Mobile, but eventually set off for Tokyo's fabric district. Tuesday's trip from the airport to our hostel had dented my confidence I could navigate the transit system here, but today's solo trip restored me. Though Tokyo may have the most complex system I've ever navigated, I made all today's transfers successfully.

One thing I'm beginning to notice is now incredibly detailed the Japanese seem to be. From toilet controls to the subway, they give you a set of options that can initially overwhelm you. But once you start to understand, it gives you the ability to take very precise actions. For example, many subway platforms include a guide to where to stand, based on your transfer plans.

A guide showing which car to board, depending on what train you want to transfer to.

A guide showing which car to board, depending on what train you want to transfer to.

So at one point today, I walked up to the car 1 spot on the platform because the guide said that was the best place to transfer to the JR line at Is no station. Never in all the cities where I've used mass transit have I seen such precise guidance.

Once at Nippori station, I found an overwhelming list of fabric shops, from specialists in fur and knits to a multi-building emporium called Tomato. (Shops here sometimes use English words for extra pizzazz, at times with total disregard for the literal meaning. Thus, a mall shop called Freak's Store had somewhat traditional women's clothing.) I only had an hour before I needed to go meet my team, so decided to use today as a planning visit and come back for shopping Monday.

After I rejoined my team, we went to one of the pastors' home to set up for a game night with some college students. For the second night in a row, we dined on sushi and pizza. Both times, the order included a Hawaiian pizza ... that also came with canned corn.

Five students came for the event, which provided a chance to practice English. One team member shared about his work as a video game developer, and the group spent some time discussing how work relates to identity and purpose.

Toward the end, the church's Japanese intern shared a moving story about how he used to root his identity in tennis prowess. But after an injury sidelined him for a few years, he didn't have a sense of value and had to face some hard questions about self-worth. It sounds like this trial may have played a role in his eventual conversion to Christianity, though only 0.2 percent of the Japanese people profess Christianity.

Tomorrow we help with a jazz event. It should be another full day.