Japan & the Art of Happiness in Doing Nothing


Hanging out on top of the apartment building on my street which overlooks Shinjuku. Half a book later and I’m burnt to a crisp.

Sunshine makes me happy. I’m not sure if I’d go as far as to say I suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), but I also certainly wouldn’t be surprised if that was to be the case. There are many people I know who class winter as their favourite season, loving the snow, and actually preferring to wear about ten layers of clothing day in, day out. I’ve never been able to understand it. Give me shorts, tshirt and bare feet any day. Winters in Japan can be especially grim as we have no central heating here – and so from December to March I’m in a near-permanent state of hibernation, dreaming of summer. As cheesy as it sounds, I feel so much more positive when the sun is out: that life is full of opportunities and anything is possible.

Now that it has finally hit May in Tokyo, the temperatures are rising. The last three days have been 25 degrees with clear skies – and even better is the fact that everyone has been off work for Golden Week. This was possibly my favourite Golden Week ever simply because I hardly did anything. Apart from checking out a really amazing traditional festival which I’ll write about in my next post, I spent my days lazily wandering my neighbourhood in the sun, eating, reading and relaxing. I climbed up to the top of the apartment building on my street and read for hours overlooking the Shinjuku skyline, only taking a break to go and eat sushi. I cycled along the Kanda river from neighbouring Sasazuka to Eifukucho and discovered a little temple hidden away in the shade.

The book I’m currently reading is called Danzinger’s Travels. It’s an account of one guy’s dangerous eighteen-month journey from Istanbul to China, following the old Silk route in the 1980s. He walked and hitchhiked his way across six frontiers without a visa, and I am just at the point where he has been smuggled across the border from  Iran to Afghanistan. While I have never undertaken a journey as crazy as this, I have been in some pretty hectic travel situations and seen a fair bit of the world, particularly Asia. But what strikes me most as I make my way through this book is that I am perfectly content to enjoy the story – to let him do the hard work while I read about it. I’m happy to be in one place and not go anywhere, while a few years ago I would have been itching to be in his shoes, wanting to recreate such a journey.

Of course I still have wanderlust. But the important thing now is that it’s not all-consuming. Perhaps my experience in the earthquake in Nepal last year has made me view the world slightly differently. Or maybe Japan offers so much visual stimuli on a daily basis that it satisfies my travel yearnings. In any event, right now I’m glad to find happiness in doing nothing – and I’m sure that big orange thing in the sky has a big part to play in that. So thank you, sun.


Serene garden in Ryokoji Temple; Maguro (tuna) sushi; Flowers outside my house (the neighbour’s place is covered in roses at the minute.)

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