With sidewalks elbow-to-elbow with fast-paced, chattering businessmen and school girls, streets crowded with passing cars and honking buses, and skyscraper walls alive with flashing neon lights and billboard-sized advertisements, it's hard to believe that the overwhelming feeling that enveloped me in city-center Tokyo was peace.
The first time I traveled outside the U.S. on my own was to Tokyo, Japan. A college friend had been teaching English there and I couldn't pass up the opportunity to visit.
During my ten-day visit to Japan, I experienced the neon jungle and commotion of the densely populated Shibuya district and walked the most traveled crosswalk in the world; explored thousand-year-old temples in Ueno Park; cast my sights on the spectacular scenery with Mount Fuji set as the backdrop; rode the extensive train and subway system frontways and back watching the men with white gloves push the masked passengers aboard; strolled through the vast seafood markets marveling at the daily catches being touted and thrown in carts; and ventured to the glass-bottomed top of the Tokyo tower with a breathtaking view of the city.
During my visit, we also took a winding road trip 140 km north to the mountain town of Nikkō. Nikkō hosts Tōshō-gū which is a myriad of temples and home to the Three Wise Monkeys: Hear No Evil, Speak No Evil and See No Evil.
When I reflect back on the trip that stirred my passion for travel, it is the feeling of peace that is most poignant. In today's society where we are invaded by noise and burdened by media and advertisements, walking through the congested streets of Tokyo with a population of 13 million, not being able to decipher the conversations, read the language or navigate my way, I felt the overwhelming comfort of peace. Protected and insulated in my bubble, for a moment, I wasn't bombarded by the world that surrounded me and I was free to take in the sights without distraction.