Only in Omotesando

It’s been a rush. A string of different events and a whirlwind of sights, colours, scents and emotions. Deadlines and commitments, wants and have to dos. My mind is filled with stories, snippets from the day and previews into other people’s lives. Images of places I’ve never been and photographs I am itching to take. Hours go by and ideas with them. This space provides the opportunity to create something out of a wistful fleeting moment, which I have increasingly failed to do.

Wandering around Omotesando on my own on the last day in Japan, I was reminded how beautiful it is to have that time to discover places and people. Various strings of events and encounters led me to discover something new about myself. Or perhaps I had reaffirmed it, that in my hurriedness, I wasn’t relishing my interactions as much as I should have been. Due to my constant strive for better, I had lost confidence in myself and instead I had constrained myself to a list of things to do, rather than heralding an awareness of what and whom I had around me and taking advantage of now. 

I walked down the quiet streets, my feet hitting the pavement in a rhythmic fashion, the occasional open and close of my shutter breaking the silence. It was during this time that I found myself watching the people in front of me in earnest.

Her long brown skirt flowed with each swift step around her ankles. An oversized deep blue coat draped around her shoulders and her cross bag with key chains of unfamiliar anime characters hit her side as she walked. He was wearing ripped black jeans, with one hand in his pocket and the other holding her shopping. They seemed an unlikely pair, but walked in step all the same. They appeared to be in their own little bubble, taking their time as other individuals scurried past them with their heads down.  

Salary men strode by with a briefcase in one hand and a phone gripped tightly in the other. Ladies and their daughters skipped past, their young girls rushing to window displays, pointing at the items only to be hurriedly tugged away by their mothers. In comparison the couple seemed quite at ease. Perhaps they had figured it all out. Their relaxed rhythm that had somehow entranced me dissipated as they stepped into a nearby shop.

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It was then I remembered that I was by myself. I had no one to share a pastry with, no one to laugh at or talk to. For once in a long time, I didn’t have anywhere to be, no train to catch and no escalators to fall upwards on (yep, it happened). I had my own space and a table for one. As I stepped into Café Kitsune, the scent of coffee beans and green tea tickled my nose and the warmth from their heaters and steam from milk provided solace against the cold evening air. My eyes met with a lone woman seated near me. She gave me a knowing smile and resumed comfortably to reading her book. Surrounded by snippets of laughter, flowing drink and short lulls of conversation, the importance of being was more present than ever. 

It struck me then (and even now writing this) that space is precious. There’s nothing more important than being surrounded by the people that complement your nature and challenge you. Who are important to you and to whom you are important. Who build you up and make you rich in a way I can’t fully describe.

In a way that you are inspired and touched by a deep sharing and loving that can happen earnestly through discussions over nothing. Through support when you move away, the swapping of story books, through the belts of a pop song and squabbling over who will have the last slice of cake. Sharing bits and pieces of each other’s lives in small fragmented words and experiences.

My cup now empty, I made my way further into Omotesando. The quest for my second Sailor Moon phone cover had resumed. It was on the Snoopy Floor of Kiddyland that I encountered them. They were no older than sixteen. First loves. Fingertips touched as they both reached for the button to the elevator. The light indicated that I had only just pressed the same button moments before. That didn’t matter. They grew bashful at the touch. She quickly recoiled her hand and placed it hard at her side. Slowly, he let his fingers intertwine with hers loosely.

They snuck glances at each other, giggling nervously and I could not help but feel as if I was watching a drama take place before me, the scene they had been asked to act out was their first date. I half expected a director to pop out behind me, yell out “NG” (no good) and point at me to move out of the way as I would have been clashing with the scene in my sneakers, disheveled hair and backpack.

We crammed into the elevator like sardines, as it’s customary in Japan to squeeze in as many people as possible instead of waiting for the next one. The boy and girl only went up one floor before getting out together. It was that short interlude between floors that a little baby held in the arms of a father looked at the girl in wonder, smiled and clapped its hands in jittery, clunky movements.

The boy watched as the girl reached out her finger for it to hold. "Kawaii!" she exclaimed. I could see that the boy had decidedly fallen a little more for her after seeing her interaction, the look on his face giving it all away. As the lift pulled up to the floor, he composed himself and led her out of the elevator, this time his hand firmly around hers. I can only assume that in that moment he had seen what it would be like to be with her for years and years and he wasn’t going to let himself waste anymore time.

How could I have bear witness to this intimate moment between two strangers, and not know them after? I pondered this on my way to Aoyama Flower Market Tea House. What did that have to say about my own interactions with those close to my heart and the way I was spending my time? Maybe it was the lemongrass and the astringent but refreshing applemint that helped me realise this. Maybe it was the three friends seated next to me, talking vibrantly, occasionally throwing their arms to the sky as they illustrated their stories to each other. A chiming of glass and giggling flowing from their corner. 

The last few customers trickled out and the jingling of the bell atop the door interrupted my thoughts. I found myself running my hands over cup that had long been empty. Topping up the glass with what was left of the tea, I sipped at it gently. Satisfied, I made the walk back the station, successfully navigated the train line on my own and settled back in my apartment in Shibuya. I was alone for the rest of that night. 

I realised that although I am constantly cooking, baking and trying out new recipe books gifted by friends, I haven't had the courage to share them. Words and photographs of topics the world over, have accumulated into a pile of drafts in the sidebar for every instance I have been hesitant to press publish. In writing this, I’m slowly addressing what has become uncomfortable for me. Sharing snippets about myself in a more revealing manner through a style of writing that has not been expressed in so long and as a result is now quite foreign. 

That one long slow walk around a city (a city that has no qualms in demonstrating to me that I know less about it than I think I do) has made me appreciate travelling all the more. Through these encounters I have achieved a new sense of awareness and confidence, that it’s better to understand, appreciate and be content with the now, while pursuing purposeful things more than anything else.