Lost in Tokyo?

Feature by Tiger Reid | 15 Jun 2006

The most technologically advanced country in the world with an old fashioned formality of manners and many a cultural clash under the surface; Japan is a mixing pot of Oriental traditions and post-war modernism. The capital, Tokyo really smacks you in the face. The city is crazed with neon lights and people walking at you from all directions.

The area of Shibuya and Shinjuku depict the western idea of modern Japan. A thriving city with the densest population in the world will certainly entertain anyone with any requirement 24/7; from all night manga bars, love and capsule hotels, conveyer belt sushi bars and more neon than a '80s electro band. For a real feeling of how full-on Tokyo is, go up the Roppongi Hills to the 52nd floor. The view is breathtaking and there is a great art exhibition space to boot.

After a few days in Tokyo, you may feel the need to take in a more traditional Japan. The Buddhist 7th century Temple of Sensoji in Asakusa has managed to preserve a certain atmosphere of the old Tokyo. While if you want to see how gadget-savvy the Japanese can be, check out Aikihabara, a district in central Tokyo famous for more electronics than you can shake a stick at.

Japan, especially Tokyo is a real mishmash of old and new; both in the physical appearance of the city and the emotion of the people that live there. This can be accounted for with two factors: first, with Japan's rapidly growing economy, the older generations are still trying to catch up emotionally with the modern country that surrounds them. Parents are working harder and longer to earn money, while teenagers and young people are growing more independent and self-reliant. As Japan inflicts enormous pressures on education and extreme family and social expectations, it is easy for many teenagers to mentally collapse and simply stop caring. This sprouts problems such as high suicide rates and teenage prostitution.
The other factor to consider is the influence of the West, especially post-Second World War America. Tokyo is covered in millions of advertising messages and the media is accelerating the "necessity" for teenagers to look and dress like western movie stars and singers. This idea explains why every British band is apparently 'Big in Japan'.

Due to both of these factors, teenagers and young people are being pushed into a corner, developing an entire unique culture of values and beliefs very different from the traditions taught to them. This has been termed 'Generation X'.

This conflict between traditional Japan and the 'Generation X' has affected everything from music to politics. Tokyo feels and looks like a city that has been put together by the clash of these generations and, in many ways, this is what makes this capital amazing. This mix of old and new has created some of the most interesting and creative modern design, art and gadgets in the world. Tokyo has many cool areas with gorgeous wee boutiques, trendy bars and record shops. As a visitor you can't help but notice that the capital has some of the best street fashion in the world, with many men sporting their own handbags. Checking out Gwen Stefani's favourite area Harajuku on a Sunday, it is apparent that this is a prime example of 'Generation X' rebelling against the conservative ways of traditional Japan.

Although the 'GX' factor has made Japan a more creative and interesting country, there have been problems with elder generations feeling that what it means to be Japanese has been lost. The beauty of Japan lies in both aspects, and there is a definite need to keep a healthy balance of each. Tokyo has become a young person's city where trends are instantly moving on and the pace of life can leave you feeling left behind. It is a must-do city and there is nothing quite like the complete culture shock of getting lost in Tokyo.