Editor’s Page: Journeys
Little things matter.
Travel helps us appreciate so much: the opportunity to explore the joys of our destination, to immerse ourselves in a different place while departing from our daily routines, then, to savor our return and that warm familiar rush of coming home.
A recent getaway to Tokyo reminded me why travel presses our internal reset buttons more than just lounging around the house or booking a kama‘āina-rate room in Waikīkī. At least, that’s true for me. We planned our recent trip with short notice and with the help of friends who’ve been there often. And that created an itinerary that kept us busy but largely unscripted.
We were struck by how efficiently the bustling city of more than 13 million people runs, and we got the sense that it’s at least partly because its residents are more considerate of one another as a general rule. On public transportation, there were reminders to keep devices on silent mode and to refrain from eating or talking on the phone. Sure, we’ve seen these signs on Honolulu buses, in subways and trains in other cities and countries. And we see them often ignored. In Tokyo, the shared decorum paid off in cleaner, quieter commutes, even at peak traffic times.
We did schedule a few things: kabuki at a historic theater, a Yomiuri Giants baseball game, a dinner. But mostly we enjoyed the chance to be swept up in the city, to catch trains, the subway, buses, stroll through parks, visit shrines and museums, changing plans over the course of each day.
And we enjoyed small discoveries. Those industrial utility covers that dot the sidewalks? Well, in Tokyo, they’re often designed with color, flowers and even graphics that show their function.
We ate great food, including an especially memorable meal at Sasa-no-Yuki, a restaurant that opened in the Edo period that specializes in tofu made daily using water from the shop’s underground well. The food was delectable, served overlooking a tidy walled garden, and the service in the 300-plus-year-old restaurant was attentive, friendly and unpretentious. Our hosts seemed genuinely concerned that guests enjoy themselves. Feeling so welcome, in turn, let us appreciate our experience more fully.
We kept seeing reminders of the benefits of keeping others in mind. We saw signs posted on a construction site urging folks to “be considerate” and warning us not to spend all our time staring at our phones, especially while walking through the busy city. It ended up being the best unexpected souvenir of the trip—a lesson on the benefits of living in the present and treating others the way we like to be treated.
In recent weeks, there’s been a lot of anxiety in Hawai‘i about the hepatitis A outbreak, which eased after the Health Department identified the likely primary cause as frozen scallops.
Still, I’ve heard some people say they’ll avoid Genki Sushi restaurants in the future because that company received the tainted scallops from a supplier in the Philippines. I hope that’s not true. We’ve always found the Japan-based chain a casual, fun and affordable place to eat for our family. And after all the rigorous cleaning, testing and scrutiny, I’m thinking that the Genki restaurants will be the safest places in Hawai‘i to eat.
And I think that’s the other timely reminder from travel. Exploring helps make our lives richer, whether we’re flying thousands of miles or heading to a restaurant across town.
Here’s to getting out in our world!
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