How to “ travel ” to Japan this summer
JAPAN’S THRUMMING the capital – with over 37 million people in the greater metropolitan area – has been terribly quiet for much of last year. The bright districts of Shibuya and Shinjuku darkened for months as thousands of small stores and giant department stores temporarily closed or cut their hours. Across town, parishioners carrying portable shrines have stopped dancing side by side in the streets. A favorite late-night snack – frozen beers accompanied by fried chicken – was mostly eaten at home. Today, in the midst of the vaccine rollout, Tokyo is actively preparing to host the Olympic Games postponed from July 23. Yet authorities implemented the third city-wide lockdown in late April to contain infection with the newer variants of Covid-19, and the country’s borders remain closed. to foreign visitors, with a reopening date still uncertain. In June, authorities will announce whether residents can attend the games in person. The only plus: Frustrated travelers might consider themselves lucky to avoid a sweltering summer in Tokyo. No handkerchief is big enough to absorb the sweat of the moisture that descends from the southerly winds of the Pacific Ocean. Yet the city’s scorching season has its virtues: countless open-air festivals, huge hydrangeas in the parks, night visits to temples adorned with lanterns, the soundtrack of jazz bands in the streets, even the cicadas occur day and night. Thanks to a few savvy residents, we found a myriad of ways to get closer to summer in the multifaceted metropolis, while watching the Olympics in air-conditioned comfort.
From historical fiction to graphic novel, 4 perspectives on this complex capital
‘Kokoro’ by Natsume Soseki
The author of this 1914 novel was born in 1867, when Tokyo was still called Edo. It is the story of a young man and his friendship with a teacher in the context of Japan’s transition from the Meiji period to the modern era.
“ Grocery Woman ” by Sayaka Murata
It’s a dark, comical story about a misfit who finds meaning in mundane work. It’s a quick read and offers inimitable insights into social compliance.
‘Norwegian Wood’ by Haruki Murakami
Not much has changed in Tokyo’s Yotsuya neighborhood, where Haruki Murakami directed much of this maturity novel in the 1960s. Cherry blossoms still line the train tracks. College students are still crowding the sidewalk. The author’s observations of a young man’s desperate first love are also timeless.