Reading the Air in Tokyo

A Japanese couple take a selfie at a Buddhist temple

A Japanese couple take a selfie at a Buddhist temple

I learned this morning that there’s a Japanese saying that says “Kūki o yomu” which literally means to “read the air.” That’s what I’ve been trying to do so far – just be observant and take it all in. Parts of Japanese culture appear to be somewhat subtle and reserved; people are polite and unassuming. Moments in Tokyo are quiet and peaceful.

Underground at Shinjuku Station

Underground at Shinjuku Station

Another side of the culture is fast-paced, colorful, and lively. We are staying near Shinjuku Station, which is the biggest train station in the world, with 1.2 billion people passing through every year. It’s just huge and like a big underground maze.

Taking a photo in the bathroom. What a view!

Taking a photo in the bathroom. What a view!

We spent the morning in meetings, mostly listening to lectures about Education for Sustainable Development. It was a lot to take in while experiencing jet lag, but it’s just so thrilling to be in the room with this group of people. Matt Sussman, the executive director of Fulbright Japan, said that after he met us in San Francisco, he described us as “having the energy of 20 year olds, but with people who actually have the position to do something with it.” We’re all just so excited – both when we talk about the projects are students are working on, and when we marvel at the stunning view out the window from the bathroom on the 44th floor of our hotel.

In the afternoon we set out to see some of the city on a bus tour. We saw a few special sites, including the Imperial Palace gardens and the Asakusa Buddhist Temple (which was interesting because it mixes the Shinto religion into a Buddhist environment). I even got my fortune read!

After the tour ended, a group of us stayed in that area to explore more. I think the photos capture it best. There’s a lot of unique things to see, and I have a sense that this is just the beginning of the wonderful and weird!


Categories: Japan

14 replies »

    • So many things! I will try to capture them over the next few entries. Oh, when you post a comment, just use your last initial (just to be on the safe side!) Thanks for commenting! Great to see people are reading along. Greetings from Tokyo!

  1. A trip to Japan! There seems to be a lot of culture surrounding you, it must be thrilling. I wish that I could be there.

  2. How big were the Imperial Palace Gardens? Have you eaten any strange foods yet? How is Japanese culture different from American culture?

  3. You’re so lucky, Ms. Krakauer, Tokyo sounds amazing!
    I like how the Japanese have sayings that have to do with nature, like the one you mentioned, “Reading the air.” I thought the picture of the dog with little red socks, and the picture of the couple taking selfie were surprising and funny! I didn’t think old couples would be taking selfies!! I also thought it was funny when one of the best views in the hotel was in the bathroom.
    What I found really interesting was the fortune-telling. I’m curious though, how do they split up the fortunes? Do they split them into sections (like when you mentioned that your fortune was a, “regular fortune”)? What is considered an, “unregular fortune”? Do you have any idea on what your fortune means?
    Tokyo seems like a really exciting place! Can’t wait to hear more! 🙂
    ~ Anna

  4. WOW sounds like your trip is amazing so far! And I did Shinto as a d work religion for our religion rubric. And what is that cool building outside the window on the 44th floor.

  5. What was your fortune? Do you believe it? I have always been suspicious of whether those were real or a hoax.

  6. I think its a great Idea to learn their culter when you arent doing anything so that you can tell us what they do in japan?

  7. One thing I wonder is why there is such a cool sit In the restroom? I hope your having lots of fun it looks like you are!

  8. ‘Reading the Air’ is about detecting non-verbal cues in order to accurately gauge another person’s unspoken thoughts, feelings or emotions. It has nothing to do with sightseeing or nature.

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