As a bypassing traveler through Narita International Airport, processing the myriad of clashing imagery, buzzy bees, and white intercom noise always seems hard at first. When you feel as if the “Look, Don’t Touch” policy applies to everything it’s only natural feeling hesitant – of things, people, and shops. In some respects, you should. In a different place and time (a 12-hour difference) filled with polar opposite lives you just tilt our head and bat your eyes lashes. It is likely your mouth is agape. So much is bizarrely alien. But, so much is frighteningly human. Gummis of lychee, melon, and plum flavors exist in packaging tailored with so many sharp, criss-crossed colors you thought Picasso himself came back from the dead. Rice balls (onigiri) you saw Ash Ketchum eating in episode one of Pokemon really do exist – in delicately perfect labels and wraps – tasting nothing like you’ve ever had before. It seems off, you think. Everything. The modern and the traditional subtly clash everywhere. A tiny restaurant offers black-lacquered bowls brimming with sushi-rice layered with fresh fatty tuna and shredded rectangles of crisp seaweed.
One step away a patron demands an “Iced Venti Americano” from Starbucks . For some, this is just some weird layover before the next big thing, another stop through before Bangkok or Budapest. “It’s just some weird country where the adults, children, and teenagers devour manga, collectively bathe together, and eat raw… things,” one can say. For otaku, its a religious sanctuary where J-Pop, anime, and everything just “sooooo friggin’ amazingly amazing” come from. But, for me, it’s different. Narita International Airport is and has always been a personal microscope into the vast expanse called Japan. I’ve always felt a small holistic sense of a much broader and quirkier culture walking through the halls of Narita.
That is my Japan.