Tokyo Imperial Palace
The morning after checking into a hostel, after a long flight after a long layover in Canada, after only an hour or two of sleep on the 10-hour plane ride, I woke around 6am Japan time slightly refreshed. I knew checkout was at 10; I knew it was Saturday. I grabbed my day bag and headed for the subway.
My guts hadn't synced up with the 13-hour time difference yet, so as my stomach rumbled I grabbed some kind of sushi and a cold coffee from a convenience store on the way to the station. Names and subway lines written in romaji made it easy to find where I was going, and I ended up near the Imperial Palace. I got off a few stops early so I could spend some time walking. No stores were open; the streets were gray and quiet. As I approached the palace I stayed to the left of the sidewalk while group after group of runners came by me.
For the first time I saw traditional Japanese architecture from the ground. Then as I ambled down the street I was struck by a giant grassy space filled with sporadically spaced trees. A shin-high bar divided it from the sidewalk and a tiny sign on the ground behind it said KEEP OUT. The sight was so profound to me.
In most parts of the United States that I've lived or visited, you could've never put up a shin-high bar around a perfectly good grassy field in the middle of a city and expected people to stay out. It's a free country, after all. We get high on freedom everyday, and we're damn proud of it (myself included).
But it got me thinking about how nice it is to be in a place with certain lines in the sand that people simply don't cross, and that maybe a little respect for rules or norms in the States would be a welcome change. Because when there are no bridges too far, when nothing is sacred and no shared sanctity exists, it's difficult for society to grow and move forward together.
These thoughts are still developing, but my first morning in Japan spawned them and inspired this trip's theme: Rules are Rules.