Under the Sun, Under the Light─ Ueno Park and Ameyoko, Tokyo

essay, Aug. 2019

YUKI TAMURA

My iPhone, which was wet from humidity, showed several email notifications. 

I knew I had to respond, but I didn’t feel like it. When I send an email, I always choose the words very carefully. That’s because I always care about what others think about me through my email.

But now, I was too tired to do so.

It was 6 o’clock in the evening. I was walking through Ueno Park, Tokyo. The heat finally became less intense. 

The concrete road was wet from daily rain. I felt the water evaporated by the heat was touching my skin. Ueno Park was now like a huge greenhouse. The sun was gradually going down, and the green trees were dyed black.

When I looked up, a wide sky spread over me. This was very rare in Tokyo, where the sky filled with lots of buildings.

“Don’t do anything stupid. Just behave yourself.”

My parents were the kind of people who only cared about what others thought about them: as a kid, when we went to a family gathering or a department store, I was always dressed in a formal dress that a girl would wear for a piano concert.

It was too formal and I didn’t want to wear it, but I always listened to my mother.

Behaving yourself; it leaves others a good impression.

But it made me very fragile, as I lost my true self─that was, what I really wanted to do or felt.

When I was tired of being a good girl or confused about what I wanted to do, I always went out for a walk with my grandma.

“This is a tadpole, which grows up to be a frog. Here are green shiso leaves (Japanese herbs). When they get bigger, you can eat them with salads, sushi, pork and so on.”

While walking along the road, I looked up and the blue sky spread in front of my eyes, without any buildings, lights, or electrical wires. I closed my eyes and the only things I could sense were the sounds of insects and frogs. 

Somehow, I had always felt that in nature, everything I saw, heard, and smelled was all my best friend.

While walking through Ueno Park, I also heard the sounds of insects and trees swaying in the wind. They all strived to live in such a harsh urban environment and reminded me of quiet, but still powerful nature, and the vitality I felt when I was a kid.

Nature always strives to live and concentrates on survival and being. It doesn’t care who I am, or what I am, which human beings always do to others.

That’s why I can breathe smoothly and feel relieved in nature.

Now I passed through the park and saw Ameyoko, one of the best touristic places in Ueno, where you can enjoy local shopping, raw fish, and street food. I could see the flashy red neon between the thick green leaves in the park. Ueno, what a contrast!

Ameyoko was full of people and I couldn’t walk straight.

I smelled ethnic spice which was totally unfamiliar to me and heard several foreign languages. Teenagers and tourists were sitting on the road, and vendors were speaking very loudly to sell their goods.

It didn’t seem a very “Japanese-like” city, which I always imagined with modern high buildings, clean roads, and quiet residential areas.

Ameyoko was totally different from Ueno Park, but somehow I also felt relieved here in Ameyoko.

I thought that was because Ameyoko was chaotic, not too artificial (thus in some way “natural”), and people there didn’t care about others. They seemed all concentrating on their own business—shopping, selling, bargaining, eating, and chilling.

Here in Ueno, I didn’t have to wear high heels or have a rich-brand bag. Instead, my wrinkled T-shirt matched with this city. 

Now I’m 30, and I already knew that I was not like the woman my mom wanted me to be. When I get cold, I cry and call my best friend for help. I never get my high heels repaired. My work, which I was eager to get, isn’t going well and I’m losing passion.

I saw myself reflected in the shop window in Ameyoko and seemed comfortable here in Ueno. 

“You don’t always have to be strong or mature to survive, right?”

Unconsciously, I spoke to myself in the window and remembered the lyrics of a song I listened a long time ago:

“You shouldn’t lose your passion, either under the sun or under the light.”

8 years since coming to Tokyo to work. I already lost false confidence that I was special, and felt I was just a boring, ordinary person doing the same work every day.

But still, I’m not losing all of my passion to live and work in Tokyo. I shouldn’t lose my passion either “under the sun” -in nature- or “under the light” -in the city-.

“Let’s respond to emails. Just be yourself. Let’s live today and get to work for tomorrow.”

I spoke to myself again in the window and walked forward.

Lyrics: Rie fu “Decay”

Ueno Park official website
(Many art museums, sakura street and a zoo in Ueno Park!)

Ameyoko from Ueno Station:
Open Google Map

written by

YUKI TAMURA

Studied psychology at college, then worked as an advertisement director. Now work at public relations in art industry. Lead a simple life in the east side of Tokyo, and often go back to my parents house surrounded by rich nature.

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