One of the places that impressed me the most about my first visit to Tokyo eleven years ago was the emblematic district of Shibuya, arguably the most popular in the city. There is the famous pedestrian interchange known to be the busiest in the world which is crossed by a million people every day and has appeared in dozens of films and documentaries. While trying to take a picture in the middle of the human wave that dragged me, I imagined how it would feel living in a place like this: crowded shops, entertainment centers, huge screens, dazzling neon lights, but out of all the thousands of passersby hurrying about it felt impersonal and unfriendly.
A year ago I moved to Tokyo and more precisely to Shibuya. It was a strange coincidence that I realized just days after renting the house where I live. I would have never imagined that this astounding place, which I photographed to remember and was so impactful a decade ago ─ being just another tourist ─ would be my neighborhood today.
A few days after arrival I was at the neighborhood bus station just steps away from the famous interchange, trying to understand in the place that seemed infinite, which bus I should take. Suddenly, a Japanese man came up to me thinking that I was looking at him, when I was reading the sign board behind him. Coincidentally, this nice man spoke English and we were able communicate that way. He had a charming and fun personality, the type that you don’t forget ─ though I did forget his name ─ and completely opposite to the stereotype of the shy and quiet Japanese. We parted after a trivial fifteen minute conversation while waiting for the bus he had advised me to take.
Six months later I was walking in the same area and was struggling trying to find a specific pair of shoes I urgently needed to buy for my son but were sold out. In the midst of my frustration and having gone to several stores without success, I stopped at the sidewalk to search on my phone where to find more stores. Meanwhile, I heard someone greeting me. When I looked up I found the same Japanese man from the bus station. We laughed for the tremendous coincidence to meet again in one of the busiest areas of a city with thirty-eight million people. I told him my problem. He quickly took his phone and using the GPS took me to another store. They also didn’t have what I needed but he had the seller look in which part of Tokyo were the lucky shoes. He asked for them to be reserved for me and had a map printed so I could get there easily. After that, he accompanied me to take a taxi and gave the driver instructions on where to take me. Obviously having no knowledge of the language would have prevented me from achieving this grand errand.
Now I know this friendly and helpful Asian man is named Hikaru and is no coincidence that his name means light. His light, which has already guided me twice, pales in comparison to the fluorescent neons. Hikaru taught me that the greatness of a country lies in the goodness of its people and that Shibuya, my neighborhood, is friendlier than I could have ever imagined. 🌸