In my hometown of Cleveland OH, people often ask what it's like to live in Tokyo. It's a bit hard to describe because Tokyo is, in part, just like we see in anime and the movies. Neon signs do constantly shine above streets packed with people. Some teenagers dress in funky clothes and dye their hair in a range of Day Glo colors. You can see women walking about in maid outfits, casual as if they were wearing T-shirts and jeans. Every once in a while, someone in a kimono will saunter by to remind you of older times. On the roof tops of tall buildings, newer times are represented by skateboarders who flip and roll the curve. So, Tokyo is very much how one would imagine it, but it is also so much more.
The city is a mega hodgepodge of many different things. There are districts where businesses reign supreme and salarymen walk about with their chests lifted in pride or their shoulders hunched in extreme exhaustion. You have places that look like Rodeo Drive where high end shops line the streets waiting for the wealthy to spend their money like spilling water. Intermixed between the metal and glass of skyscrapers are old wooden shrines that house deities who grant the wishes of people wanting a successful birth, good grades, more money, or general happiness. Expansive parks also sit beside skyscrapers like oases in the city. For a brief moment, you can forget about the fact that beyond the trees, for as far as the eye can see, the ground is covered in human structures.
Through the body of the city run the veins of the public transportation system. It can take you anywhere you want to go as long as you go within its operating hours. Buses, trains, subways, and taxi cabs cover 100% of the city and its surrounding areas. That's why a great many people who live here, do not have a driver’s license. Another feature of the city is safety. Although it's not wise to do so, you can fall asleep and leave your door unlocked and chances are you'll wake up OK. In fact, you can sleep anywhere, no matter the time of night or day. Often people who could not handle their liquor find themselves on park benches or building corners and sometimes even in the middle of the sidewalk, slumped over, drooling, exposed, but always waking up intact. Despite the suffocating density of bodies packed into rush hour trains, there are hardly ever any pickpockets. There are also far fewer fights than one would expect in a city so full of people. Violence does occur but it's rare. Murder does happen but that's also rare.
Tokyo is a city of contrasts. We have the old versus the new, youth versus elderly, extreme hedonism versus extreme conservatism, and welcoming smiles versus an ever-present xenophobia. Add to this the magic of the city, which always promises to offer some kind of adventure. If you wait long enough and look hard enough you can find yourself knee deep in stories to tell your great grandchildren or stories too raunchy to tell anyone but a select few of your closest friends. No one has a gun here. They are illegal but not impossible to get. For $5000 you can have a handgun, as long as you find the right taxi driver to take you to the right Yakuza. Once upon a time, psilocybin was sold legally in shops and street corners. The paradox was that while they were legal to buy and sell, they were illegal to consume. There are places in this city where you could have every inch of your body washed for the right price. Even cuddles are for sale, which means, in Tokyo, the loneliest person can find the comfort and warmth of another human being, as long as he or she is willing to pay for it.