The streets of Tokyo were nearing empty. Or maybe just in this stretch from Haneda to Shinagawa. I watch the storefronts go by, mostly convenience stores I would find myself in over the next few days, over the next few cities. I think to myself, so this is Japan. And it was, and it wasn’t just.

Our taxi slows down and we alight in our hotel. I observe it was much taller than the two, three, four storey complexes we’ve passed along the way. The room, though, was much compact than any I’ve seen before. Yet at the same time, it was much impressive than any I’ve seen before. The use of space was maximized but it didn’t feel cluttered. And on the bed atop the robes were origami cranes. This is so Japan, I exclaim to Lala. We drop our bags and head down. A right in the corner and a few meters down, we find ourselves in a small, thankfully 24 hour, restaurant. I hover over the menu, knowing I am making a crucial decision – my first Japanese meal. I press the button for Kitsune Udon. Immediately, the kitchen comes alive. Minutes later, that same guy who prepped our food, serves it to our table. I take a spoonful of soup to my mouth. The moment of truth came with flavors dancing and a warmth permeating; it was the best I’ve had. We go about our meal and head back, we still had an early train to catch the next day. The morning gave me a better view of our surroundings, illuminating details I may have overlooked the night before. Outside our window, a couple of streets over, I see it – Cherry Blossoms, just in case I needed more proof that I was really in Japan.

Eight hours in, of which 6 were sleeping, I understand why they say Japan is not like any other. I had only scratched the surface but already it made so much sense.

This is Japan.

Japan is this.

Japan is Japan.

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