Thursday, August 11, 2011

Typhoons, a Mouse, and the Twinkling Lights of Tokyo

I apologize for my late post this week, but in true AOTOS fashion my latest adventure has taken me spontaneously to Tokyo, Japan. Originally I had a vacation planned for Jeju Island in Korea, complete with beach time and lots of lounging around. When Typhoon Muifa decided to slam the Korean coast, however, it threw a wrench into my plans and I had to reroute. It consisted of me and my friend sitting in front of the departures board in Incheon Airport, choosing a city, and booking the flight. I'm telling you…if you want to go somewhere (and you have the money and time), just book the ticket and take the ride. Nothing gets better than that.

But that's a whole different post for another time. The past 3 days have been full textbook 'having the trip of a lifetime' moments, complete with cultural analysis and emotional catharsis. Tokyo is a beast of a city. It isn't that big, but it has an entire life of it's own. It isn't like Seoul or any other city I've visited. You can walk down the street with flashing LED boards and technology that would blow your face off, then turn a corner and find a Shinto shrine nestled between two buildings. Space is a luxury here, so things like rooms and sidewalks and 'personal space' is consolidated to cater to the sheer amount of people in Japan. This city is old and new, and it truly breathes and changes on a consistent basis. I'd honestly live here just to see where this place goes next.

We also had the opportunity to show up all my Disney friends and go to Tokyo DisneySea, which is another microcosm of the Japanese culture and experience wrapped in Disney magic. Detail is the name of the game here, and this park is themed to perfection. I love Disneyland in California, and I grew up going to those parks as a kid. That being said, what Tokyo was able to do with DisneySea blows those parks out of the water. It's still new, so they are expanding attractions left and right. But the stuff they have now and the world that is created for them is so comprehensive that I can't wait to come back in 5 years and see what they've done with the place. 

What really sold me on the park, however, was Fantasmic 2.0. For those of you unfamiliar, Fantasmic is the nighttime show in Disneyland that embodies everything that Disney is about. The music and majesty is pure magic, and so when I heard that Japan took this already amazing show and redid it…I was intrigued. I waited with all the kids, giddy with joy for the show to start. Twenty minutes later, my jaw was still on the ground and my imagination was in overdrive. I honestly couldn't put into words how amazing this show was. It took everything good from the original, cut the slow parts, and upped the ante on everything else. It is worth noting that this is a brand new show, but it was as if the entire park was built for Fantasmic. Between the soundtrack, moving platforms, 3D projections, use of spotlights scattered around the park, a dragon that shot fireworks out of its mouth, jet skis, and a 60ft LED Mickey Hat that moved and incorporated video, the show showed me that Disney is still the best out there. 

Tonight, however, really brought some meaning and a bit of catharsis to a core reason why I love traveling. We met up with Danielle's (my travel buddy) Japanese friends that she met at NAU, and we had some drinks on the 25th floor of the Washington Hotel in Downtown Tokyo. Wine glass in hand, we chatted for hours above the skyline of Tokyo. Maybe it was the ambiance that really got me thinking…I mean the scene was beautiful. The lights twinkled outside our window. A huge, sprawling city seemed so far away up here.

The epiphany that I had was one on the concept of friendship. I was sitting here in Tokyo, drinking wine with a group of Japanese people, turning strangers into friends. It's something that is so natural when you get abroad. You are so far away from everything familiar to you that, naturally, you cling to the one thing that makes sense: humanity itself. Humanity is ultimately companionship. We weren't made to go through this journey alone.

There is always the chance that I may never see these people again. There's always the chance that I'll never see some of the friends I've made over the years again. It isn't done on purpose. We all have our own path to take, yet we shouldn't make the mistake of turning this into a reason to end a friendship or to stop one from forming in the first place. The way that Danielle and her friends lit up when they saw each other again (after 3 years) is proof that friendship can be maintained through the years and in spite of distance and cultural barriers.

There are some really amazing people in this world. In fact, I would argue that there is 6 billion amazing people out there. There's something amazing about each and every one of us, and we always gravitate to one another. We can't fight it. And, although you can meet these amazing people anywhere….it's only through traveling that you can really appreciate what friendship and love for one another can do for you. It's the greatest feeling in the world, and you don't need to be sitting at a bar staring out at the twinkling lights of Tokyo to feel it. 

1 comment:

  1. Ryan, I enjoy your blog, and am very happy Alysha put me in touch with it. Safe travels, enjoy the journey, I'm proud of the man you've become and your view of the world and life. Next time you're home in Kingman stop by for a hug.
    AKA Alysha's mom.