Wednesday, October 30, 2013

shibuya crossing: another unlikely meeting place


Immortalized in many an artistic photograph and film moment, Tokyo’s iconic pedestrian crossing in Shibuya can amaze, thrill and mortify with its density of the pedestrians pounding through the 5-way crossing. I’ve been told that on one heavy crossing you could have a million people pass through there. Now, even to one so poor with numbers such as myself, that seems highly improbably, but seeing myself the thickness of the human traffic, I can imagine that it is possible. Regardless of the numbers, one cannot deny the fact that it’s a staggeringly large amount of people, all with a mission, all moving towards some destination and, for one moment in time, they converge to cross one of Japan’s busiest intersections, swift flowing rivers of human walking bodies.

This is the backdrop of my last jaw dropping coinkidink, so utterly random, so brilliant in its timing that I can’t help but smile at the universe’s continued blessings and good humor. Because this is where I met my friend Taeko, whilst crossing the street.

This might not sound very impressive at this point, so let me backtrack…

It’s Day One in Tokyo after a rather relaxed two months and a bit in Kansai region’s Osaka, a big city, but after sometime a manageable one--very orderly except for some “unruly” pedestrian and cyclists (I being one of them, for a brief period of time). If Osaka is a big city, then Tokyo is a monster one. Everything is amplified: the buildings, the subway system, the advertising, the business signage, the noise, the people…

I was feeling a bit jolted out of my comfort zones, I was missing the easy pace and wholesome energy of Kansai. Previously, I was in peaceful and green Kyoto, enjoying lovely bike rides in the city, visiting temples, gardens and shrines, eating healthy veg meals and chilling at gameboard hot spot, Cafe Meeple.

And now, I was on the move AGAIN and in overly vibrant hyper-driven Tokyo! I was feeling the intensity of it and was doubting my decision to leave Kyoto.

Here I was without a phone trying to meet friends at various meeting spots I had no previous experience with. Had managed ok through a lunch and an afternoon outing. But then there was a dinner meet-up set at the east exit door of the Shinjuku station. I thought, if all the signs fail me, I still had my compass.

There, I would meet Taeko, a new Tokyo resident, and our friend Andrea, who was coming in on the trains from Ibaraki, where he lives and works.  Wasn’t too worried about the meeting, though my friend Alona, who I was exploring Shibuya with, had her concerns. Shinjuku is a big station.

After crossing, Taeko is still on the phone with Andrea!
When we parted, I had a good 3 hours to kill before meeting, so I decided to return to the famous Shibuya pedestrian crossing and try my luck at trying to capture the hustle and bustle of the people with my camera.

In a way it was laughable, me crossing the streets a number of times, trying this crossing or that, the bumbling tourist. There was no capturing the scale of the human movement on these Tokyo streets, at least, not with my phone camera. But with so many people, so much action, I felt anonymous, another body moving with the flow, arm outstretched upwards, camera over my head, trying to snap up a little of that oh so special Shibuya energy. I must have been on my fourth or fifth round, in the middle of one of the crossings, when Taeko snuck up beside me to say hi and to tell me that she had Andrea on the phone just at that very moment and that they were just wondering how they would get a hold of me—then passes the phone to me and I hear Andrea on the line. Smack in the middle of the crossing. Seriously?! What were the possibilities?!

Taeko then walks me down several fabulous streets, where the energy and flavor of young, hip Tokyo is pumping, then we head to Shinjuku together, where we wait for Andrea at an exit door, which I must admit I would have had a difficult time finding.

When I recount my story to my friend Alona after Monday yoga practice as we have coffee and breakfast at the fashionable Omotesando district, she points out that this is, in fact, something that happens to me all the time. And what’s more is that it seems to be happening with greater and greater frequency: these golden moments so fortuitous, so sublimely random and yet totally perfect. Some meetings and events may not have the grandiose effect or the same shock value of a chance encounter in Shibuya, but every encounter is a blessing.

I wrote about my last serendipitous meeting in Barcelona as the universe’s feedback system, confirming that all is perfect, that I am just at the right time, the right place. But I am starting to sense that these aren’t isolated events, that each encounter is part of a great trail, tasty morsels that mark this fantastic forward-moving journey.

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