Home for the Holidays

The trip from Shinjuku Station to Narita Airport is always an emotionally exhausting journey for me.  Even though I know I’m going to be back in Tokyo again eventually, saying goodbye to the people and places I’ve grown comfortable with is tough.  It’s an acknowledgement time has passed and something I was once “looking forward to” is now over.

This time, while I still had a lump in my throat as the train sped off from the platform, I was eager to get on the plane, because it wasn’t just going back to Canada – I was going back to Canada to see family for Christmas.

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The Gone John Canada-Japan Showdown

It’s hard not to compare where you are to where you are from.  Along the way, you find the new places you’ve discovered have found a better way to do something you’ve always felt wasn’t exactly right – and sometimes, you long for the creature comforts of home.

Many friends and family back in Canada (and friends here in Japan) have been curious about the differences I’ve found between the two countries.  And while this is by no means an exhaustive list of comparisons, they are five of the more fun/interesting ones I’ve been able to make.

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Tokyo’s Hipster Neighbourhood – Shimokitazawa

One of the trendiest neighbourhoods in Tokyo is located just one express train stop west of bustling Shibuya Crossing.

New York blog Gothamist calls Shimokitazawa Tokyo’s answer to hipster haven Williamsburg in Brooklyn.  With a quirky mix of shops, bars and restaurants, Shimokita (as the locals call it) is an attractive destination for youth and those looking for an alternative scene.  But with the neighbourhood’s popularity rising, a number of smaller independent shops are giving way to bigger brands setting up to do business.

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Tokyo’s Canadian Wine Store – Heavenly Vines

When you talk to people in Japan about Canada, you typically get asked about mountains, moose and maple syrup – not merlot.  But the reality is Canada is producing some world-class, award-winning wine with small, artesian wineries painstakingly crafting amazing products in many parts of the country.

One Tokyo shop owner wants to change the conversation with those in Japan who don’t realize Canada has a lot to offer their wine racks.

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