Back in the Big Sushi

Narita Airport Terminal 1 Underground Passage
Narita Airport Terminal 1 Underground Passage

Got back a couple of days ago from my annual visit to my “other” home, Toronto. Yes, it was a great trip, thanks for asking.

I always have mixed feelings on leaving Toronto and returning to Tokyo. On the one hand, I really enjoy visiting family and friends and familiar haunts (such as the public reference library, and the UofT campus – I know, I know… 24-hour party people) in my old hometown. I love to walk, and Toronto’s streets and alleys make for great walking – and the weather usually co-operates by cooling down overnight and staying that way into the morning. All the hassles of daily life in T.O. (oh the TTC! ooh construction!!) don’t really get to me: I’m on holidays! nowhere to be, nothing to do. Perfect Zenlike simplicity. Streetcar delayed? Hey, isn’t that a Starbucks over there? Sweet. I could just retire into my Golden Years…

Of course, I don’t live and work in Toronto, and that makes all the difference. Tokyo’s the place I make a living. Build a life. A career. “I am perfect the way I am, and could stand a little improvement,” to paraphrase Shunryu Suzuki; Tokyo’s where all that striving takes place.

Now I’m back, and back at it. Finishing up a few writing and photography projects started in the first half of the summer; preparing for the resumption of classes in a few weeks (oh, the lessons I’ll teach!). Feelin’ good as I practice my mantra: the best of the old, and the best of the new. Each new school year is a fresh start. Anyway…

They say recovery from jet lag takes up to half a day for each time zone crossed when traveling east to west (double that in the opposite direction); circadian rhythms and all that. That puts me about halfway through the recovery period; until then I’ll just have to cope with the sleeplessness, fatigue, inability to concentrate, and upset stomach that comes with long-distance flight. Sigh.

What’s that you ask? What do i notice about Tokyo after being away for a month and seeing it again with fresh eyes? Glad you asked…

Tokyo is hot. Even when we’re not in a heat wave, it still reaches into the low 30s on a regular basis. Worse, it’s humid: like, 70%. For you Canucks, a day like today is 49 on the Humidex. On the hottest days last summer, the Humidex reached 65. That’s really, really hot. The hairs on your arms burn. So does the hair on your head, if you have hair there. Never mind jet lag: a healthy, well-adjusted male or female of the species suffers sleeplessness, fatigue, and all the other symptoms listed above. And those are raw temperatures, usually measured i believe at airports and other relatively benign locations. never mind the heat island effect you experience amid the crowds of Shinjuku, say, or even on the trains.

All that heat and humidity does have one benefit, however: Tokyo is lush, even in the middle of summer. You see it on the drive in from Narita: all those emerald rice paddies laid out between dark green trees. Nothing like the dusty, blasted browns and pale greens of semi-arid southern Ontario (for the record, I am perfectly well aware that southern Ontario actually has a humid continental climate; so why the water shortages?). Of course, Tokyo doesn’t have Toronto’s old growth trees shading its neighbourhoods – see “heat island effect”, above.

… but I don’t want to get into a comparison between my two home towns. I love ‘em both, each in its own way. I had a great visit to toronto this summer, as always; it’s great to be back in Tokyo. I look forward to more adventures, and writing about them here! Stay tuned…

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