Alyssa Dannaker Temple Japan

Me, The Wide-eyed Student-Tourist I Knew I’d Become

Sitting — or most often standing — in a crowded subway train, one experiences an array of emotions, especially upon encountering morning and evening rush hour. I have come to think of these instances as a series of mental tests that improve, daily, my character and tolerance level as a growing adult. On the 6 o’clock morning trains I look forward to swallowing hairspray and perfume and taking the occasional briefcase to the hip. After a long day at work or school I’m perfectly fine with building up arm and leg strength via germ-infested train handles instead of plopping onto a warm, heated seat. I also treasure, and will most definitely miss, the one magical act that never fails to make me feel closer (sometimes too close) to fellow humans than I’ve ever felt before: the grumbles and grunts we all utter in unison when new friends from each station push their way in through the train doors to join us on an hour-long commute. Because I see these beautiful sights five days a week here in Japan, I know that these experiences will stay with me forever…

What will fade away into the misty recesses of my 21-year-old brain are the truly breathtaking sights I get to see with my frequently inadequate free time — the magnificent gardens, the other-worldly giant statues (and the small cute ones too, namely Hachiko), the remarkably designed buildings, the smooth criss-cross of people in the streets, the engaging museums… And this is why I have evolved rather quickly into the American tourist I knew I’d become. After reading pieces in my literature classes that sprinkle names of Japanese cities here and there, I actually get to go out and see them for myself, whether they’re big tourist spots or everyday quiet towns. Phone and sometimes crappy camera in hand, I document what is, for typical people here, the normal goings-on of Japanese cities. But to my eyes it’s all fresh, and I find myself describing Japan with phrases like “a blur of color,” “fantastical and whimsical streets,” and “modern and stylish pedestrians,” although I could attribute these words to many cool cities and places in my home country. I hate to think of myself as the obsessive photographer and the girl who takes notes spontaneously on the subway like a desperate author searching for their next hit novel, but, that’s who I am in Japan and I can’t get enough.

If you’ll put up with the shaky camera and you’re willing to take on, for a moment, the same over-excited tourist mentality I feel everyday as a student here, join me in taking a look at a few of the places I’ve been to in Tokyo. I’ll show you the cute pup Hachiko, the Tokyu Department Store in Shibuya, and a few more spots in Harajuku, Ginza, and Itabashi. Come see the sights with me!

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