I formed an expectation that Tokyo would be a strange place before arriving, but was surprised by something I found truly weird: in one of the largest, most densely-populated metropolises in the world there are no trashcans, and no trash.
Harmonies are everywhere you look in Tokyo.
In the parks, architecture is in harmony with the gardens.
On the streets, crowds are in harmony as cyclists, pedestrians, and cars easily navigate huge swells and narrow alleyways.
Around the districts of Tokyo, at festivals and in every day life, people are in harmony with the needs of their community. People take an extra moment to personally deliver someone who is lost to their destination, or stay behind to pick up a piece of trash left behind by a foreign tourist.
And spirituality and different religions, denominations, and faiths are in harmony with every day life in the city.
Contrast is evident everywhere you look in Tokyo.
The ancient and the modern are seen side-by-side.
Urban landscapes impose upon paradisal green spaces
And everywhere, rich colours, shapes, and ideas inform a beautiful and interesting urban geography.
Density is the most evident characteristic of Tokyo.
Restaurants and bars are typically very small, seating 4-16 people.
Personal dwellings can be quite small by Western standards.
And massive swells of people share space effectively.
Beauty is evident in Tokyo’s many parks, peoples’ care for detail, their every day lives, and their communities’ celebrations.
Quirkiness pervades Tokyo, but more often than not there’s a generous or profound reason for whatever might be eye-turning.
What impacted me about Tokyo was the distinctiveness from the West. Major issues requiring social participation have been solved here. Tokyo is safe. You don’t have to lock up your bike if you don’t want to. There’s no trash. People are good to each other, even when in stress-inducing crowds.
A local put it to me best: the difference between Japan and the West is all about cultural outlook. In the West, our way is rooted in people putting themselves first, and protecting themselves; in Japan, a collective-mindedness rooted in Confucianism informs behaviour like staying after World Cup games to pick up garbage.