Japan! Have I ever seen a prettier place in all my travels?

Now don’t get me wrong – I am not talking about “Alps-in-the-backdrop” or “Hand-painted-marble-domes” or “deep-red-canyon-in-the-sunset” kind of pretty. If these are standard definitions of what constitute beauty, then look much further than Tokyo. This is man-made, machine-assisted, technologically-gifted pretty. This is the pinnacle of human development and civilized existence. This is concrete beauty of Michaelangelo proportions. Tokyo – for me and apparently a lot of other visitors – is a postcard perfect setting of a millenium of tradition and honour kept alive by modern marvels of architecture, tarmac, automobiles and neon-lights. And what completes this picture of “manicured modernity” are the Japanese people themselves. Compact, clean, disciplined – each Japanese takes up exactly as much space as he/she is allocated in the most densely populated nation in the world.

One has to look way beyond the glass and steel structures and the roads (which makes it seem as if God used a slide-rule to create this place) – to realize or appreciate beauty of such nature. One has to look at the extreme and animated politeness of the Japanese, or the way every small garden is snipped and trimmed to the perfection of a Supermodel’s hair-do. One has to admire the poetry in the way extremely rich and extremely busy Tokyo-ites stand in perfect “one-arm-distance” waiting for a whisper-silent diesel-powered bus which glides into the bus-stop and whisks them away to their destinations. One has to be amazed at the way Japanese town-planning guys thought and designed the worlds most complex and efficient metro-railway system – where one does not have to wait for longer than 2 minutes for any train to any where… nor have to walk more then 10 minutes from any place in Tokyo to the nearest station. The fact that this was designed in 1934 is just a matter-of-fact.

And if cleanliness is really next to godliness – then I believe God lives here. I have never seen a sweeper or one of those big cleaning trucks here – but still one can detect a cigarette butt on the ground from a mile! One would say “Oh…how unnatural!” because that’s what it seems like. And it would be unnatural (a la Singapore) if all this was enforced. But here, nothing is enforced. Everything is a way of life. From the way perfectly cut pieces of sushi are arranged in the plate to the way green tea leaves settle at the bottom of a cup – everything is as human as divine. One wonders how an small island nation of 200 million manages to be the second-largest economy in the world (and by a huge margin!). One look at the place and the people and the perfection all around – it is not only very easy to understand how but also to comprehend that Japan is “untouchable”. No other nation can ever reach where these guys have…though neo-rich countries like China and India can tout double-digit growth rates and enjoy being the darlings of the world right now – it is Japan which has already scaled the peak of social, industrial and economic development… and will continue to lead the world in terms of sheer perfection.

Sughoi desu ne? Domo Arigato!