Friday, July 26, 2013

The art and joys of "hanging out" in Tokyo on a summer day

Yesterday, I did the unthinkable for someone like me, whose life is usually scheduled down to the minute.

I was in Tokyo for a day, and I hung out with a friend from Manila -- a travel buddy, actually, who'd been part of a group of about 14 people who'd traveled through South India together sometime in 2009 or 2010.

Scroll down together...


That India trip three years ago had really been fun.

We'd all joined by ourselves even if many of us knew each other, and a couple of others didn't. I knew only about half the group before the trip but I joined anyway.

We were united by our love of luxury, culture and shopping, and we made sure we had enough time for all.

This friend from Manila yesterday was one of the two guys on the trip. And somehow, yesterday, serendipity had arranged for us to be in Tokyo at the same time.

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Read about the under-the-radar destination of Hyderabad
in the June-July 2013 issue of Travelife Magazine

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Yesterday, the stars aligned -- one of my other friends in Manila just hates it when I use this term on him, for some reason, so I always think of him when I do use it -- and I decided to put away my computer, stop answering emails or posting tweets or status updates.

And just enjoy walking around Tokyo, basically doing nothing but shooting the breeze.


It's summer after all, and I made a conscious effort to slow my life down a bit for at least a week or two.

In fact, I've added two books to my already growing reading bucket list: a coffee table book on the Japanese contemporary artist Yayoi Kusama, and a book on Jerusalem written by the meticulous British historian Simon Sebag Montefiore.

Sebag Montefiore penned a humongous but captivating biography of Potemkin, the great Russian leader and unofficial consort of Catherine the Great.

It's one of the most poignant of unofficial love stories between two people with too much ambition and too many responsibilities -- and too little time to be together, and so many constraints.

But he'd been able to piece together via painstaking research through Russian archives and by traveling to almost unheard-of places in Russia -- talk about a Travelife here -- the story of two people who were meant together and who never really able to, except for pockets of time here and there.

So when I saw this really thick narrative on the history of Jerusalem by the same author, I added it to my reading list.


I just mention it now because I picked these two books while waiting for my friend to come and meet me at the Tokyo American Club.

When he arrived, off we went to Tsukiji for a nice enough sushi lunch that was good but not earthshaking, and relatively decently priced.

It was the kind of place you can order everything and anything you want without breaking the bank -- or without someone frowning on you if you want more soy sauce.

This is my favorite seaweed soup in Tokyo...


We were only supposed to meet for lunch, because I thought I would work in the afternoon before a long weekend in Osaka.

But what the heck, I thought.

It was summer and life was slowing down, and here was an opportunity to just hang with a friend I otherwise get too little face time with in Manila.

This display caught our attention in Tsukiji yesterday...

I said to him over lunch: "I came to Japan to slow down. Things were getting just a bit too hectic."

You should've seen the look on his face when I said this. We were in Tokyo, after all, capital of heart-thumping 21st century lightning speed.

Then he said: "You do realize it's just exactly the opposite for most people, right?"

Most people do come to Tokyo to experience an adrenalin rush.

But, for me, this is about 20 paces slower than my usual everyday Travelife, so being in Japan is actually a break.


After lunch, we went to Tokyo Midtown.

We just looked at shops, did a little shopping, and talked a lot about all kinds of things while walking.

Then we went back to the Tokyo American Club for some tea and more talk.

I'm going to Tanzania in about two months, and so we spent a good deal of time at the club looking through his own Tanzania photos on Facebook.

I also got lots of advice on what to do and buy. Uh-oh. The "buy" part sounds dangerous to the credit card, actually.


Then last night, just before sleeping, I got an email from the Travel Companion going with me on this epic trip to Tanzania, with three very different safaris and the best resort on Zanzibar for a Travelife of just under two weeks.

He'd sent me -- and I'm sure with just a hint of glee -- some bad news on a cruise line we happen to both like, even if he's constantly reminding me at every opportunity that I like this cruise line much more than he does.

This reminded me that I owed him my series of easy-to-understand emails on the legwork I had done for our trip before turning it over to him for the rest of the planning.


Yes, we must be officially crazy about safaris now, as we'd actually booked three completely different safari experiences in three completely different locations in Tanzania.

Actually, I chose all the locations and he just let me do what I pleased in terms of bookings and reservations.

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Haven't told him yet that our luggage allowance on those tiny charter flights within Tanzania is something like 15 kgs each -- way less than what we had in South Africa, where we at least had 20 kgs per person on each flight.

In South Africa, he'd had a field day watching me struggle then on 20 kgs as 15 kgs is usually my hand luggage alone.

My computer alone is about 3 kgs, and my bag is about 4 kgs without anything in it.

So, for Tanzania, that leaves me with 8 kgs for two weeks of safaris and dinners and a beach resort.

But I plan to cross that bridge in about a month, after we're done with logistics and visa applications. Or to take the easy route and just snatch a few kilos from his luggage allowance.

I'm the one on the never-ending, and never-endingly eventful Travelife, after all...


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