Like Everyone Else
Only More So

  • In the spirit of honesty, like the affiliation to writers and artists who value truth, I must admit my lack of knowledge about Japan before my visit. The trip was an afterthought, too.

    After spending our allotted 90 days within the Schengen zone of Europe, with a friend's wedding still six weeks away, we faced a choice: wait in the familiar yet drizzly Britain, with its fleeting 10 days of summer warmth, or venture far east to Japan. Having six weeks to spare is a luxury, and when paired with the opportunity to explore a new world and create art, it’s a chance too good to dismiss. Or perhaps, this opportunity demands the envy it garners—“you lucky bastards,” you might say, if I seem to live a life of privilege. Trust your intuition.

    Before the trip, I hadn't glanced at a Lonely Planet guide, grasped the breadth of its vast and influential history, or even learned basic phrases. I'm not the 'give me your list' type of friend; I'm more inclined to ask where we can hire a bike and how many art stores there are. I navigate a city guided by my nose and perhaps a vintage store I've long bookmarked. But in Tokyo, using these metrics, you'll hardly cover a couple of blocks.

  • Before anything else, I was struck by the fanaticism of the culture and the people for, truly, everything—The Details. My collection title, "Like Everyone Else Only More So," hints at this. The journey begins with a smooth airport arrival, an efficient transfer train faster than any I've experienced, and roads painted in un-cracked, vibrant lines. How can roads look so immaculate? Tokyo feels dystopian, new age yet nostalgic, as if someone's 90s prediction of 2023 came to life. The sharp attention to every detail confirms nothing is accidental. So clean, it seems new, but it’s just well-maintained.

    But I always seek to look back, too. I delve into vintage bookstores, captivated by their sections and offerings, which are vast. In New York, you might find your niche, but in Japan, you can immerse yourself in it, excel, and even build a small empire around your passion.

    As a collector and admirer of the overlooked, I found my place in Tokyo. The attention to detail, from a paper packet holding two needles to the hand-painted table settings for chopsticks, captivated me.

  • Even the tiny doors behind banners, revealing a single bench seating around eight, offered a unique charm. Inside, the chef focuses, wiping their knife, surrounded by quiet, save for the occasional sound from the back. This isn't about hedonistic excess but about cherishing the minutiae.

    Japanese cuisine elevates seafood to regal status, with rice, pickles, wasabi, and drinks serving as humble disciples, enhancing without overshadowing. Even the salaryman beside us, taking a dinner break from a long night ahead at the office, adds to the narrative. His interaction, or lack thereof, with his date, and our wordless appreciation of each dish, underscore the culture of subtlety and respect—manifested in the quiet ambiance, the meticulous presentation, and our grateful bows for each course served.

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