Loneliness in Tokyo

By Jasmine Parmley

shinjuku pic.jpg

It is rather oxymoronic how isolated one can feel, navigating the bustling streets of Shinjuku. If the term can be loosely defined as being away from anyone familiar, then "solitude" is the norm in this city.

From hurried morning walks to sleepy evening train rides to late night strolls down colorfully illuminated sidewalks, I am constantly alone.

Though I walk past hundreds of strangers every day, their unrecognizable faces are but a blurry background-- a testament to how few friends I have in this city. At times, even the most avid believers in self-reliance can feel pangs of loneliness: I miss living with my family and running into friends back in Nebraska. Even after moving to Boston for college, I was still used to seeing familiar faces around campus every day.

By contrast, in Tokyo I have to actively make plans just to see people I know. In crowds, lone travelers can become invisible. Yet it is precisely this crowded invisibility that allows us to grow close to each other. The great secret of this city is that it is the perfect place for secrets. Never would I have guessed that the funniest jokes are made over grilled gyoza at crowded counters, the best gossip is spilled on the damp benches of public parks, and the most sincere childhood memories are shared on street corners while watching trains pass by.

It is in the lonely corners of the city where I have found my strongest friendships. If we listen closely, I wonder what other secrets can be found hiding in the rhythmic hum of the city.

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