Mornings in the City
Three times a week, I take a long walk with a friend 5:45am. We cover five kilometers in about 45 minutes, and while that is not race-worthy, it feels good. Mostly it feels good to be outside, to be doing something good for our bodies, and to chat so that we never notice we’re actually exercising.
I am a morning person, so that hour never bothers me. In fact, I quite like it. In the winter months, it can be difficult to get up and dressed in the dark, but being out in the city at sunrise is a treat like no other. I never fail to appreciate Tokyo at this time.
The city seems to awaken before our eyes. The streetlights flicker, dim, and then darken as the sun makes its ascent in the sky. The Tokyo Tower, which is akin to the Eiffel Tower, is still lit when we start, but dark when we’re through. The air is clear, without the smog and humidity that characterize the summer months. The rays of the sun are barely reaching out and stretching toward the tops of the buildings as we walk. The horizon pinks up nicely. We see a few more lights in apartment windows. Tokyo, in most places, is not a tall city; earthquakes and a sense of neighborhood have kept it traditionally low. In some places we can see the beginnings of stirs of families as they begin their morning routines. The lights are always on at our favorite bakery. The scrumptious Italian coffee shop already has smells emanating from it that make me crave my morning java.
The Japanese are particularly purposeful when they walk. They look neither left or right, but somehow magically avoid crashing into one another. I feel like I am constantly weaving and bobbing to stay afloat in the sea of bodies that characterizes most major streets. But before 6am, the streets are blissfully empty, devoid of the foot traffic that will flood them in only an hour’s time. My friend and I walk two-abreast for the entirety of the route, somthing that is not usually possible. In fact, there are times when there are literally lines of people that move at the pace of the line-leader and I feel like I need a signal light on my body to indicate that I will be moving out of “traffic” to pass the person or people in front of me. I have broken into a light jog at mid-day in dress shoes just to get out of and away from, the throng of people.
In the mornings, before 6am, the auto and truck traffic is light, but increasing along with the oncoming light of day. However, it is early enough to smell the wafts of flowers that are omnipresent in the city. Japanese people, when they can’t live in nature, bring nature in. In the spring and fall we smell the new growth and life-affirming buds. We can tell the seasons with the aromas in the air. In the winter, their air is cold, but not frigid – dry but not icy. Most mornings, even now in January, we walk bare-headed.
As the light comes up, the shop-keepers and mama-sans come out to sweep in front of their buildings lest dirt be tracked inside. Even the streets and sidewalks are always clean. Leaves from the few trees in the area never stay on the ground long before being swept and bagged and curbed. These industrious dawn-workers seem determined to get their day started with their rhythmic sweep sweep sweeps.
The day gets off to just the right start with my morning walks. I feel rejuvinated and ready for the challenges that I face. And each morning I fall in love with Tokyo just a little bit more.