Moving into Tokyo
Moving into Tokyo

Moving into Tokyo

The first endless day

I reached Narita Airport without noticing the end of the previous day nor the beggining of the following one. I only arrived, between the two, without being able to close an eye. Unless the real, long and intense night of what had becoming the monday night come though, I did not stop running everywhere as if I was a child. An entiere new universe was opening to me. How could I remain quiet ! Even if the body is demanding a lot, I quite like these long journeys. I feel like travelling through ages. And then precisely, it was more likely a bound 40 years above.

It was not exactly my first time here though. I already crossed this giant Tokyo Narita airport by three times on the way to New Caledonia. But I had never crosse the doll barreer that split people into tourists and real citizens. The other side, real Japanese people speak real Japanese. I needed a few minutes to really get into the move, and then I could not stop myself speaking to everyone around anymore. The airport staff staired at this weird blond guy who was not putting words in the right order for a few instants, and immediately stopped using the Keigo (this polite and traditionnal Japanese) for laugthing at it with me.

Une autoroute aérienne dans le quartier de Shinjuku. Tout ce qu'il y a de plus banal.
A flying highway in Shinjuku.

With my friend Léa, we have picked up on the way Matthias, a Sweedish, Khanh (or something like this), a Vietnamian, and Maxime, a Parisian to build up ou first little community of Chuo University exchange students. I felt like the bus journey to the opposite of Tokyo had just last ten minutes, with an unbeliveable cross over Shinjuku and its thousands of skyscreapers taller than the Montparnasse Tower, the French highest building over the quarter of La Défense in Paris. From the beggining, I have handled my bike surrounded by bubble wrap on every Tokyo train and bus. We finally reached Tamadaira, my knew residence. Tamadaira is actually a long building linked to the University, but has got its independance, and is especially a great community of about fifty students living together all the year long. The former residents have hosted the knew ones as soon as we had arrived and I could meet my knew flatmates Takumi and Kengo for the first time before leaving for a walk in the surroundings.

Tamadaira et ses habitants
Tamadaira dormitory community

For the first time I felt that France is late

I was expecting to discover a very different country, both modern and traditionnal, but with a development level quite similar to France. In fact, it has not been the case. For the first time of my life, despite all my travels, I felt that France was late compared to an other country. Of course, I know that the frontal confrontation of the cultures is nor releavant, nor well accepted, but let’s being honest. The Europe and the occidental culture has to find back humbleness. We are not alone in the wold anymore !

Japan is first ahead in terms of technologic matters. Tokyo’s buildings look like coming straight from future, without speaking about skyscreapers not about the incredible density of the metropolis (hard to imagine for a French guy who thinks that Lyon is a big city). Even fifty kilometers farther than the center, flying monorails still flourishes above the road axes, inside which we feel like flying above the city alongside the birds. I don’t reckon there is even one in France. Everything is conceived to be increadibly useful and practical. The gates of the subway, the road circuits, the distributors for plastic bags for umbrellas.

La ligne de Tama Monorail, à 500 mètres de l'université. De l'autre côté, un zoo.
The Tama Monorail line, 500m alongside the university.

But they are also and especially ahead in terms of social behaviours. I know that the Japanese society also offers dark sides and I will certainly underline them later. But I have discovered a lot of behaviours that I would not have thought capable the humo sociabilis. What bounds at my eyes at first sight is the cleanliness. There is no trash in public spaces, whereas there is… No bin, though. The public space is a notion that really carries sense : no one smokes in the street, no one eats (which is for me a terrible deprivation). On the road as well, behaviours are totally differents. I have not seen a single walker or cyclist (excepting myself) crossing despite the red light. I probably meet a dozen of red lights before leaving the city though. Hard to know where stops respect and where begins privation of individual freedom. Nevertheless, these behaviours demonstrate a real counciousness of the other’s existence, and european cultures are not always capable of this step backwards. Finally, these privations benefit the individual, as long as they are a gain of time, of energy and of politeness (I will come back later on the question of social behaviours, probably bringing more nuance).

The academic and student world

Chuo University and its students has been incredibly welcoming. Since I came, I did not meet any unpleasant person. Many academic circles concerned by international students offer ourselves receptions and welcoming parties everyday, with a perfect organisation, and everyone leaves with the head full of memories and knew friends. In seven days, I have probably become friend with fifty people or something, and some of them are already very close. This sounds totally exotic for me, who just left the introverted cycling world. Everything has found its place little by little during thins first week : courses calendars (starting tommorow), journeys, subscriptions and settelings, important places and friend circles.

My studies program will be divided into two main fields : in-depth study of the language, with 9 hours a week (four mornings) and the rest (culture and there courses in english). My main goal is to master the language fluently as soon as possible. Having learnt all by myself is as well an advantage and a disadvantage : I could get an excellent basis but also wide grammar lacks. As for the english, I am used to it in the everyday life for a long time now, but the level of linguistics is a lot higher in the university universe than in the sportive one, so I can only improve now.

International students are as we can say a certain universitary elite of several countries around the world. I met people with unbeliveable intellectual capacities and incredible modesty (“Aside from speaking fluently Japanese and learning Chinese, I speak French and English natively, but this is not my fault, my mother is english. I was just born lucky”). Aside all these people, I feel stupid and slow at learning. I reckon that this helps everyone of us to overtake his limits, and I am really looking forward the courses to begin for having my first foot into a knew world of knowledge.

Japan by bike

For the moment, the majority of us has only a very shortened view on Japanese living. From one side, Tokyo center is more than 50km farther and from the other, the city exit is not before 15km. So we are in a huge subburb zone, with some bigger small centers, but globally quite redundant. On the wednesday, I went for a half-an-hour footing that finally lasted two hours and nearly a half-marathon (I am used to get dropped in the middle of nowhere thanks to races journeys, though). But thanks to cycling, I could widen a bit the limit of my terra incognita. I have ridden my bike five times : three times to the mountains, one time along the city limit and an other to the city center.

As soon as we live the city and its extreme modernism and as we get into the mountains, everything becomes untouched nature. Only a few villages and several temples sprinkle the pristine forest. Roads are then pretty rare and most of them are dead ends. Passes are globally a lot shorter and steeper (finding 3-5km long climbs with between 10 and 13% slope average is not rare). For leaving the city, I therefore need to ride 10km among the buildings but once I left them, I get into a totally different world, a lot more peaceful and revitalizing.

First meeting with th Chuo Cycling Club

Today, I have ridden with Itsuki Hirose, from the Chuo Cycling Club. You have to know that there, they don’t joke with the universitary sports. We have discovered that we had ridden once together last year, at Chateauroux-Limoges. I was finishing 16th whereas he did not finish the race. But today, he is stronger than me : I definitely lost my former racer skills.

I think about riding the bike approximately three times a week, alongside one or two footings and maybe some races. This is approximately a 4 or 5 times smaller amount in comparison to my former weekly rythm ! Adapting to this knew physical statement is not that easy, but I still enjoy the strengh of my high-level years. I know develop a knew viewing on cycling, looking forward travels, discoveries and especially encountries. For who wish to follow me, I lead you forward to my Strava account, where you can discover all my diary trainings, that I now name with a haïku (in French most of the time, though).