Monthly Archives: September 2013

Two wheels, Tokyo style!

Day 28:  September 25, 2013

Got my hands on a classic 1985 Cannondale road bike today.  (Aluminum, downtube shifters). Ironically, from a fellow New Yorker!

Classic 1985 Cannondale.

What shall we name her?

Terminology lesson:

じてんしゃ – “jitenshiya” – bicycle

サイクリング – “saikuringu” – cycling

Time to tear it up in Tokyo!

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A Spirit of Excellence:

Day 23:  September 20, 2013

Olympic Committee celebrates as Tokyo wins bid to host 2020 Olympic Games! [photo courtesy of The Japan Times]

TOKYO 2020! Olympic Committee celebrates Japan’s winning bid [photo courtesy of The Japan Times]

One virtue I have learned from Japan in my short time here: practice excellence in everything.  The core Olympic values are embodied by the people of Japan, for whom excellence, friendship and respect are a way of life.

The Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building (東京都庁舎)

Visit to 東京都庁舎, Shinjuku: the center of excitement for TOKYO 2020!

The Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building (東京都庁舎) stands 202 meters in height.  An observation deck on the 45th floor is free and open to the public.

Who could pass up this view?

Who could pass up this view?

The mission statement from the TOKYO 2020 Bid Committee was read (in part) as follows:

We believe in the power of sport, and its ability to generate dreams, hopes, goals and positive change.  We believe that a renewed commitment to the values inherent to Olympism – excellence, friendship and respect – will inspire our youth to strive for a positive future for themselves, their country and the world.

Quite powerful and inspiring to hear.  Tokyo’s bid was paired with a short clip (much of which illustrates the Japan I have come to be familiar with):

In light of  TOKYO 2020, I decided to do a short bit of research on the origin of these Olympic values and the philosophy of Olympism.  Here’s what I learned:

Reactions at the Olympic Stadium, Tokyo [photo courtesy of The Japan Times]

Reactions in Tokyo at Olympic Stadium [photo courtesy of The Japan Times]

The notion of Olympism advocates for the elevation of the mind and soul; overcoming differences  in nationalities and cultures, embracing friendship, a sense of solidarity, and fair play; ultimately leading to the contribution towards world peace and the betterment of the world (Bid Committee, 2013).

Discover Tomorrow: celebration in the streets of Tokyo [photo courtesy of The Japan Times]

The atmosphere in Tokyo, September 7, 2013 [photo courtesy of The Japan Times]

The five rings, the well-known symbol of the Olympics, were developed in 1892 by Baron de Coubertin to express the solidarity of the world’s five continents.

Extatic Tokyo [photo courtesy of The Japan Times]

Ecstatic Tokyo [photo courtesy of The Japan Times]

The practice of excellence is built around the ability to inspire others.  To evoke positive change using the platform you have been given.  Japan’s commitment to pursue positivity and re-instill faith and hope following the 2011 earthquake and tsunami commemorates excellence in my book.

Excitement back in Hatagaya.

Excitement at the foot of the Metropolitan Government Building, Shinjuku.

To quote a most favorite author:  “Devotees of human excellence develop not only their own talent but also the talent of those they touch.”  Excellence, then, is:  rising above ourselves, and lifting up those around us, by getting the most from our talents and gifts (Lowney, 2009).

Be it an opportunity to compete at the Olympic Games, pursue missionary work, or teach English in Japan, if excellence is rising above ourselves … to pursue it, engage your talents for the benefit of others.

In Japan, 卓越 “takuetsu” (excellence) is a way of life; a focus on building strong community and unity.  Japan has promised to inspire the world in 2020.  I wholeheartedly believe they will deliver.  Congrats, TOKYO!  See you in 2020.

"Keep your eyes on the stars and keep your feet on the ground." - Teddy Roosevelt

“Keep your eyes on the stars and keep your feet on the ground.” – Teddy Roosevelt

Notable References:

Kameda, Masaaki. “Games nod pressures Tokyo to act.” The Japan Times. (http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2013/09/09/national/games-nod-pressures-tokyo-to-act/#.Ujw63Btgfvo).

Lowney, Chris. “Heroic Living.” Loyola Press (2009).

Tokyo 2020 Bid Committee. “Olympic Movement.” Tokyo 2020. (http://tokyo2020.jp/en/olympics/).

明治神宮: Be at peace

Day 13:  September 10, 2013

Please help me soothe my anger, clear my doubts, and give me courage to face my fears to help myself and those around me.  -Riyon 6 Sept 2013

Please help me soothe my anger, clear my doubts, and give me courage to face my fears to help myself and those around me. [Riyon 6 Sept 2013]

On Sunday, Phillip (my housemate from Germany) and I visited Tokyo’s Meiji Jingu 明治神宮 (Meiji Shrine).

Torii gates

Torii gates

At the center of Yoyogi Park, two massive torii gates give dramatic entrance to a long, wooded pathway leading to the Inner Shrine.

Phillip demonstrating at the purification fountain.

Phillip demonstrating at the purification fountain.

It is discouraged to enter the Inner Shrine without purification. Using one of the ladles provided, take fresh water and rinse both hands. Then transfer some water into your cupped hand and touch it to your lips.

Naien: the Inner Shrine area.

Naien: the Inner Shrine area.

The Meiji Shrine is a popular spot for traditional Japanese Shinto wedding ceremonies. The stillness as the bride entered left a calming silence that lingered throughout the morning.

Prayers at the offering hall.

Prayers at the offering hall.

For prayers: throw a coin into the slotted offering box, bow deeply twice, clap your hands twice, bow deeply once more and pray for a few moments.

The children on the steps.

A view of the offering hall from the center naien.

Note the children on the steps; a wonderful Sunday in Japan.

Special personal prayers and gratitude can also be written on ema tablets and hung around the divine tree. The ema are offered at Mikesai, the morning ceremony held every day, and wishes are conveyed by the priests.

I sincerely hope all wishes were fulfilled that day … especially for Riyon, whose words I think speak for so many.

The prayer of St. Francis de Sales comes to mind:

Have no fear for what tomorrow may bring. The same loving God who cares for you today will take care of you tomorrow and every day. God will either shield you from suffering or give you unfailing strength to bear it. Be at peace, then, and put aside all anxious thoughts and imaginations.

Start where you are…

Day 4:  September 1, 2013

Happiness: [hap-ee-nis] noun  1. The quality or state of being happy.  2. Good fortune; pleasure; contentment; joy.

How lucky am I to have felt such happiness these last few days.  I woke up in Tokyo today … (“I woke up in Tokyo today?!”).  In disbelief I still rushed to the window this morning.  Simply put:  とても幸せです – totemo shiawase desu – I am very happy.

Hatagaya is a suburb of Tokyo.  A most quaint neighborhood where I found my sharehouse:  http://goo.gl/maps/xOXMU

Arrival at the apartment: sweet!

Arrival at the apartment: subarashii!

For a better visual:  I can stand fingertip to fingertip from the window to the opposing wall.  If it’s true that your wingspan equals your height, that would put us around 5’8″.

Traditional Japanese shikibuton bedding:  said to be an integral part of healthier lifestyles in Japan, improving posture and circulation.  (I’ll let you know – for now it’s definitely a space saver!)

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Exploring Hatagaya: a walk to the ‘corner market.’

A 5 minute walk and ¥1000 ($10.20) resulted in:  grapes, lettuce, sprouts, grapefruit, corn, apple, raisins, “popcorn,” and dried pea-pods.  (I should mention that I love my neighborhood).  Most importantly, I am overwhelmed by the kindness of strangers – more on this later.

The "Shibuya scramble"

The “Shibuya scramble”

YouTube “Shibuya crossing” – it goes a little something like that.

Dinner in Shibuya: Japanese 居酒屋 (Izakaya)  restaurant.

Dinner in Shibuya: Japanese 居酒屋 (Izakaya) restaurant.

My dear friend Kaori was kind enough to meet me for dinner and a tour of Shibuya.  Tokyo’s version of Times Square has a total area of 15.11 km² and population density of 13,540 people per km² … not surprising, this place has a special charm.

Excelsior Caffe, Shibuya; certainly put a smile on my face.

Excelsior Caffe, Shibuya; certainly put a smile on my face.

Our New York State motto in Tokyo.  If nothing else, I’ll take that as a subtle nod that I’m in the right place.

Arthur Ashe:  “To achieve greatness, start where you are, use what you have, do what you can.” …off we go, Tokyo.