The obvious contrasts

I’ve spent a wonderful 3-week long spring break in Greece and now I am back in Japan to continue my daily routine. At the time of both arriving to Greece and returning to Japan, the contrast hit me – HARD.

As I leave Japan, everything is smooth as usual; trains on time, smiling airport employees, all the checks performed thoroughly, the whole travel-out-of-the-country process streamlined properly. And then I get off the plane in Athens. 3 vending machines in a row ‘Out of order’, an announcement that there is a metro strike and grumpy, tired faces of people working their asses off for a minimal minimum wage.

Soon, the tables turned over. The spring was here, jasmine and bougainvillea sweet smell even around Systagma square amidst the cars. People walking around, having fun in bars and cafes. A lot of foreigners, anything from refugees to immigrants and tourists. I spotted a lot of foreign travelers – in comparison with tourists – in unconventional locations around the city. According to the view of a friend, last summers modern art exhibition ‘Documenta’, irrelevant to whether it was artistically successful or not, brought to light a new trend: Athens is the new Berlin. That reflects now vividly. You can find tall blond northern Europeans in the hidden away dark synth and vaporwave bars on Patission street. The bus line going to the universities was full with Erasmus students. Athens is building a name as city to enjoy life while you’re young. I went to the airport with a heavy heart, wishing to stay a bit longer. I passed all the checks quickly, being an EU citizen inside an EU airport has it’s perks.

And then I flew back to Japan. Huge crowd in the airport, an immense queue of people waiting to get checked. Luckily, I had a re-entry permit ready and skipped everyone, but I still had to give again fingerprint information and such, even though I was already enrolled in the system as a permanent resident. I had to transit 4 times inside the train system to get back to my dorm. All the transits were on the last trains of the relevant line, but luckily not a single delay occurred. At the final station, I waited for a taxi. The queue was huge – as expected in Japan – because that’s the problem of not having night transportation in one of the most crowded cities in the world (with mostly Japanese crowd, that is). Almost all the people waiting were lonely salary men in suits, burping or tripping up themselves; the effects of alcohol after work on a weekday were obvious. The view of the blooming cherry trees (桜) on the next day, was invigorating, although they give off no smell, sadly.

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Greece and Japan have their unique pros and cons. I am pretty sure that if you want money and convenience you should choose Japan. That’s the reason that I am currently staying in Japan, and will probably stay for a long while. On the other hand, if you want to enjoy life, choose Greece. That’s why I am definitely not staying in Japan forever.

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