Tokyo, Japan

October 13, 2019

Welcome to Japan

pre-s. I originally wrote this letter earlier in the week, before the typhoon Hagibis hit Japan late yesterday. I'm glad and fortunate to say that everything where I'm at is completely ok, though as news is coming in this morning, it's clear that not everyone in Japan was so lucky. News is still early, so I think the best thing I can do is give you the originally scheduled letter. Apologies for the dissonance!

I'm back after a few weeks visiting friends and family in the US, and again out here in this strange and wonderful life I call home.

So, welcome, with me, to Tokyo, Japan. :)

The first thing you'll notice here - as soon as you go to speak - is the quiet.

It's all-consuming. Everywhere. In the train. The streets. Restaurants and department stores.

It isn't from the calm. Life here is busy, bustling - a true megacity of almost 40 million people. It just doesn't sound that way.

Walking down the streets, there are no honking cars, no people talking loudly on cellphones, no barkers to try to draw you in. Step into a restaurant and you'll see people having conversations, maybe even hear voices - but they'll be too quiet to understand what they're saying.

Transitioning from the US, it's hard for me to imagine a stronger contrast. In the states, public spaces are combative, loud fights for attention. But here, as in France, there's an acknowledgement that public space is shared - here for everyone to use - and that if we want to have a lovely public space, we all need to take care of it.

This attitude of respecting how we impact the people around us permeates every aspect of life here.

Right now, I'm typing on my laptop, here in my little studio in the heart of the Akasaka ward of Tokyo. Outside it's bustling and busy, and my apartment backs up to dozens of others, along with restaurants and a five-story kareoke club.

But the loudest - the only - thing I can hear in here are the key strokes as I write to you, plastic pressing into metal in an uneven, rhythmic composition.

I inhale deeply, hear the air sliding into my lungs.

Three years ago, Japan is where I finished writing, editing, designing, and publishing The No-Bullshit Guide to Depression. Here, on this early, jet-lagged morning, I remember so clearly why.

Writing is easy here. Sit still with the words. Notice the ones that are there because of my ego or theirs, and gently remove them from the piece.

Keep what remains.

Wishing you a bit of quiet sometime this week,

-Steven

p.s. The best thing I saw all week was this look at painter Alexa Meade's 3-D illustrations - and how they play with perception.

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