Writer, traveler, maker


Travel updates and occasional commentary

Tokyo day 7: Big-picture view

I haven't had much time to myself the past few days, but I wanted to share a little about my final day in Tokyo.

For a little context on our schedule during the trip, most of our host church's parishioners work during the day, so they're free to meet mainly in the evenings and weekends. Earlier in the week, we used some of our days to meet with students, but Monday was entirely free for a little final sight seeing. Most of us went to the Skytree tower in the morning. A radio tower apparently finished five years ago, I believe it's the tallest building in the world.

Tokyo's Skytree tower.

Tokyo's Skytree tower.

From the main floor, 350 meters up, you get panoramic views of Tokyo. On a clearer day, this would include Mount Fuji in the distance. I confess I was equally interested by the view and how tower employees' uniforms incorporated a triangle motif into three different prints, plus a two-color dress with a single triangle running down the front.

After lunch at a nearby mall's food court, we headed to a major shopping district called Ginza.

One of the food court stalls offered several kinds of fish.

One of the food court stalls offered several kinds of fish.

The main attraction for several of us was a two-building stationery store called Itoya. The first building, with about 12 narrow floors, had a different section on each level: journals (weekly/monthly planners), pens, business, travel and so on.

The floor listing inside Itoya.

The floor listing inside Itoya.

One interesting section included household journals, spiral-bound notebooks that women apparently use to keep the family's financial records or expenses. To find the more U.S.-style journals I wanted, I had to go across the street to the second Itoya building, which had six more floors of paper products.

I spent the rest of the afternoon wandering the nearby streets -- a section akin to New York's Madison avenue.


Passing a bookstore on one block, I saw to my surprise that it had a Christian section. (As I might have mentioned, we learned that Japan is 0.2 percent Christian, 0.4 percent in Tokyo.) Later that day, the team leader, who has family in Tokyo, said it was probably the only Christian bookstore/section in a city of 30-some million.

On Sunday, we'd seen a Japanese translation of a Tim Keller book (my pastor when I lived in New York), but apparently a recent translation of a book by pastor John Piper got lots of criticism for being badly done. It seems the church there could really benefit from more materials, but few translators may have the needed skills in English, Japanese AND theology! I'm sure the relatively small audience poses additional challenges.

Japanese Christians who've spent time in the U.S. may have good enough English to read books like my memoir (which two of the women bought), but those still reflect a very different cultural context. Though people all over the world follow Jesus -- and both Korea and China have growing Christian populations -- we heard that Japanese people considering the faith often see it as conflicting with or challenging their cultural identity.

After Ginza, the two other adult women on our team and I met three single women from our host church (including the two who bought my book) for a dinner of Korean barbecue. We cooked the meat right on the table and stowed our shoes in a booth-side cupboard. Leaving them a few hours later, we said goodbye as if we might meet again. It's not hard to imagine that we might.