The People of Tokyo


Words & images by Tirza Sari - @tirzahartono


Ever since I was little, I’ve always wanted to go to Japan and experience the culture there. As a small child, I grew up in Hong Kong and attended an international kindergarten there. We went out for a class outing one day and my mom forgot to pack me lunch. My Japanese friends were so kind and shared their sushi with me, and since then, sushi has become one of my favorite foods.

Finally, last year I got the opportunity to visit this country that makes sushi! I went to Japan because of a documentary project called “What Is Life To You?” Every day the team and I went out to different places in Tokyo and we interviewed around 100 people in the span of 2 weeks. And this is what I heard on my first day in Tokyo… There is 136 million people in Japan. 80% of the people don't know their purpose in life. And 12% of those prefer that they would never have existed. It is so easy to feel unnoticed and lonely in Japan; to feel that they don’t matter. That's why the suicide rates are high. It dawned on me that somehow, someway, our interviews for this documentary could give people a platform to share, to be noticed, to let their voices be heard and to be valued.

In my traveling, I always want to try as much local food as I can! That’s one way to get to know the culture: food. I grew to love Ramen so much after this trip. Ramen shops are everywhere in Tokyo. There is also this Abura Soba (Oil Noodles), which doesn’t sound nice, but it was surprisingly delicious.. In Takeshita Street, there were tons of Crepes shops. This street is full of people and a lot of them dress up in Harajuku fashion. Japan is famous for their traditional and modern cuisine. And in Tokyo, you can easily find a variety of food from all other region. You should also explore Tokyo’s coffee scenes, either the traditional kissaten-style or the upcoming third-wave.

I am quite the planner, but when it comes to traveling I want to be as open as I can be. I am usually an ‘up for it’ kind of person and I love to do spontaneous things. Either in the busy and bustling streets of Shinjuku or just around the quiet neighbourhood, I love that I can capture it all with the little camera that I have. One time we were waiting for dinner at Ichiran Ramen – it’s a chain ramen shop but believe me, it’s still the best ramen I’ve ever had! They then informed us that it would be an hour wait, and it was already close to 9pm. When you see it’s not just foreigners waiting in line for the food, you know it is worth it. We took advantage of it by letting our friend wait in the line, and we walked around Omoide Yokocho to take photos! This is a famous alleyway in Shinjuku and known for their food especially the Yakitori (Japanese chicken grilled in skewers). Tokyo is big and has a lot of touristy places, but this kind of adventure reminds me that just around the corner, there is always more to see.

Tsukiji Market is the biggest wholesale seafood market in the world. There is this crazy auction for different fish at 3am every morning, and they are sold for quite a bit of money. If you want to see the auction, I would recommend doing some research first. We didn’t go to the auction, but we went around the fish market and bought ourselves some yummy dinner. It was enjoyable walking around the market, getting seafood, bargains with sellers, and then we proudly made it home with our shopping! This market will be relocating soon, so I am glad that we were able to visit this place! It was definitely one of the most unique experiences I’ve had.

I came to Japan with a preconception that Japanese people are really smart; therefore they would be quite prideful. But I was completely wrong. Tokyo itself, for me, is a city full of people who serve and are very humble about their intelligence. It was the most innovative city I've ever been to. So Kawaii (cute) and aesthetically effective. From the interviews that we had, a lot of people said that they don’t know what their purpose in life is. We encouraged them to keep seeking it out, but also gave them a word of affirmation that they matter and they are loved. I know that success and having a lot of knowledge can’t give fulfilment, but relationships are what we truly long for. As you travel – landscapes, pretty places, cityscapes, they are all beautiful. But don’t forget to share it with others.


For the dreamer - For the adventurer