This summer was the first time I traveled to Tokyo, Japan...
to see my older brother. Everyday I dressed up, ready to hit the streets and had a full experience of Tokyo. From shopping in Harajuku to eating Ramen in Asagaya.
Today I walked around Asagaya with my sister-in-law Saeri. I had the most interesting encounter with 2 older Japanese women. I tried to explain my nationality in a way they could understand. Knowing fully well, I don't speak any Japanese, I remembered my old boss taught me the word "Half-u", meaning mixed bred. Japan is famously homogenous so for someone to be mixed or have more than one ethnicity is somehow mind blowing. Although the word "Half-u" sounds like some kind of racial slur, it's the only way my brother, nephew and I can be described as. "African American" I said. I am both African (where my skin color comes from) and that I was born in America and so were multiple generations of my family. Trying to explain that your ethnicity was a result of the European global colonist conquest that enslaved Africans and brought them to America where the generations that follow continue to be oppressed racially and economically can be difficult when there is no mutual language shared. They began to compare my skin to theirs and said "My skin (is) white compared to yours, yours (is) very dark" using the little English they knew. The women were very pleasant and normally I would be offended by this, but I knew they knew nothing of my history and culture beyond what they have seen in the media (which, lets be honest, is not the most accurate). I just politely laughed and said yes. I got the impression they were genuinely intrigued and I respected that and parted ways. By the way, Japanese Curry is BOMB.
The 7th floor of my hotel is called "The Ladies Only" floor. This is to prevent men from stalking and harassing women. On this floor there is also a room called "The Healing Room". This room has 2 massage chairs and 1 lounge chair. There are 2 amazing things happening right here. Being a victim of multiple sexual assaults and undergoing a lot of changes this year I fell in love with this concept. The idea of a Healing room is beautiful. Maybe it was just the translation but they recognition that the body and mind need to heal and that there is a room dedicated to it in a hotel is awesome. American hotels have "Spa's" which offer a similar concept but they often cost extra money to even step foot in. Addressing the fact that there is an all women's floor is both sad and great at the same time (Crazy RIGHT?!). There is a conversation about women's rights and feelings that is powerful enough to get a floor dedicated to ensuring a woman's safety. The sad part is women are put in a place of danger that they have to somehow escape. Although the world is changing, it has a long way to go.
SHOPPING! OMG THE SHOPPING HERE IS RIDICULOUS!! SOMEONE PLEASE TAKE MY MONEY SO I WON'T SPEND IT!!!!! Anyone who knows me knows how much I love to bargain shop. I LOVE A GOOD SALE! BOY, DOES JAPAN HAVE SOME SALES! Sorry for all of the excitement. Shopping in Shinjuku and Harajuku was a complete thrill. Found the cutest pair of shoes for 1500Yen = about $14.94.
Black people are very rare in Tokyo as I mentioned above. That being said, walking around, I got lots of stares. Some seemed intrigued and curious but others where malicious and obsessive. Either way, I kept my head held high and walked around like Naomi Campbell (3 snaps in a zigzag). I could not fit most clothes or shoes considering I am plus size and have a larger than average shoe size which was frustrating but I made it work for me. I focussed mostly on accessories for this reason. I was still not completely disappointed.
I love food sometimes just as much as shopping, Luckily, my brother and sister-in-law knew some great places to try things and could accommodate my picky eating habits. My first meal was a Japanese/Italian fusion at Denny's (I know, that all sounds very authentic). It was pasta with some kind of Alfredo sauce and ham. It was alright. Im still alive sooo. All jokes aside, the food was very different to what I was used to. I hadn't realized that cultures can affect the way food is seasoned and prepared. I also tried Japanese curry, which like I said was BOMB. By far, it was my favorite. I also had ramen, which is required for every tourist to try, which wasn't half bad. Maybe it was just the place we went to, but Ramen I tried in America tastes better (my brother will probably side eye me for saying that). I tried a Crepe in Harajuku (I've also been to France, and tried a Crepe there) and its safe to say that Japanese Crepes are just as good.
JAPAN WAS A GREAT PLACE TO VISIT
I had a life changing experience there. I met my first nephew for the first time and learned the importance of family and creating a support system. I got to explore a beautiful culture and had the best tour guides (Malcolm my brother that knows a lot of clutch facts about Japan and Japanese culture aside from speaking the langue fluently #proudsis and my sis-in-law Saeri who is a Tokyo native and awesome friend and mother). I definitely am considering living there so if anyone has a connect for a job, hit that contact button up top!
While in Tokyo, I found a tattoo parlor in Shibuya. Tattoo's are a very big Taboo in Japan because of their link to Gang related activity. In bath houses, people with tattoo's are not allowed. In America, tattoo's are becoming less and less of a taboo and are accepted even in most work places. I have a couple tattoos myself and are not shy about them. Although the tattoo parlor in Japan usually did tattoo;s the contemporary way using a gun, I wanted the traditional art form of tattooing called Tabori. This technique uses a long metal rod with tiny needles on the end. The rod is jabbed into your skin repeatedly with colored ink and it creates a tattoo. This is less painful then an actual tattoo gun even though it looks and sounds pretty gory. My tattoo artist name was Hiroshige. (I told him I'd give him a shoutout lol)