When shopping in old town Kyoto you find shop after shop where the artist lives about their store. They and their family live above the workshop and sell their wares from the storefront each day. Here you see a china shop filled on every available surface with imported dishes. Instead of diversifying what they carry, they chose to do one thing well. They offer dishes in every size, shape and in every color combination imaginable. Traditional patterns, bright colors, bowls and serving vessels align all over the shelves and surfaces.
The streets of Kyoto are lined with these kinds of shops. Anything you can imagine is available, especially traditional Japanese crafts. Each shop features a different array. Each taking great pride in what they are able to create or sell. This area reminds me of what happens when people focus on doing one thing well and succeed. When we focus our efforts it is astonishing what can be accomplished. We are able to bring our passion, our ideas, our excellence to a topic and raise the bar. We set the standard and improvise to invent new, different, and completely unique levels.
In some areas of life being an expert is a good thing. It brings status and importance. It means we are a sought out resource on our topic. In some things being an expert in one thing is not enough anymore. Specializing is too often seen as a limitation, so we spread our efforts across multiple activities to be well rounded. We want to have more to offer than just one thing, we do not want to limit ourselves. But when we spread our time and offers across multiple arenas, are we robbing ourselves the ability to be excellent. As the saying goes – Jack of all trades, expert in none.
Which one are you – an expert or able in multiple trades? Do you have the patience and focus to become an expert, or do you feel pulled in multiple directions in order to be well rounded? Which one do you want to be? By doing one thing well you have the ability to exceed everyone’s expectations, but it takes time, energy and effort. By being ‘well rounded’ you do a few things well, none of whic are you considered an expert. The excellence of the vendors in Kyoto reminded me of the benefits and beauty of doing one thing well.
City life is different than rural life. This shot of the Ginza in Tokyo highlights the bright lights and fast paced nature of city life. There are options beyond your imagination almost to the point of information overload. No matter the hour of the day there is something so see or do. Everything you could imagine wanting or needing is available. Life has an unending variety of opportunities for those who dwell or simply visit. There seems to be something exotic and hypnotic about the neon, advertisements, designs and signage all along the streets. We have fun simply watching the people and the fashion walking amongst us.
City life has its allure. The people, the lights, the options, the fact that time has no meaning. Anything you could want or need is available. I know city dwellers who can’t sleep unless they have street noises in the background. I know city dwellers who do not know how to drive because they only take public transportation. I know city dwellers who have never been outside the city limits. And I know city dwellers who come alive the moment they cross into the city limit; their heart races, their energy rises, and the thrill of life’s adventures soars in their souls. They thrive by living in a city and cannot imagine themselves living anywhere else.
When we travel we enjoy getting to know cities. The neighborhoods, the side streets, the idea that turning around the next corner could uncover something we’ve never seen before. Maybe it is because we do not live in the city that we find them so charming. We imagine the lives of city dwellers that are so different than our own. The glamour and the glitz that we imagine each city block contains. It is an adventure just walking around and seeing the big city sights.
Maybe cities allow us to dream about the elements of life we do not experience everyday in our own lives. The lights shine bright and help us believe that anything is possible. The fact that so many diverse people, cultures and options dwell in such a small space adds the element of curiosity to the mix. Maybe just walking around a place where we do not live out our daily lives allows us to imagine a different life than the one we live each day. The boring parts of our world somehow seem thrilling when walking down a city block. The unknown has its allure, just like the big city. Next time you travel down a large city street, enjoy the view, the sights, and imagine the infinite options.
When we travel, we like to travel the back allies and find out of the way places. We want to see things most tourists don’t ever see. My husband is a cycling enthusiast, so when we travel we sometimes search for bike related places. We were in Tokyo and wanted to find Punch Cycle, a local bike shop. We were standing on the corner looking intently at a street directory, and a local man stopped his bicycle to try and help us find our way. Our Japanese is limited, and his English was limited. My husband pointed to the street we were on and mentioned the shop name. The man pointed one direction and my husband pointed the other. If it was possible to disagree without really understanding each other, that’s what happened. My husband listened patiently as the man pointed many options, then very firmly directed us one way. My husband again disagreed, and let it go. We thanked him, bowed and went the direction my husband thought was correct. The man got back on his bike and pointed us in the direction he suggested while riding away.
We walked on and decided to move onto the next point of interested figuring the bike shop was a lost cause. About three blocks later we saw this…Punch Cycle. The store magically appeared. My husband was ecstatic and actually said out loud, “I knew I was right!” We all laughed. REALLY!!! This is the fabulous bike shop we hunted for, argued for, and walked to find? I had to have a picture of this one so we could tell the tale. Not only was it closed, but as you can see it most certainly was not the bike shop that we had imagined.
Sometimes the best part of the story is getting there. The end result doesn’t matter, you had an adventure and reached your destinantion, even if the destination was a big let down. Celebrate the success, have a laugh, then move on. Don’t dwell on it, enjoy the process. Not everything is about a successful end result. Sometimes the adventure is enough. Sometimes the failure is worth simply to learn that you were right even if where you were heading was not worth it. We got a really good story out of this one, a reference point – Punch Cycle – for future travel missteps, and we are still laughing with each other over the passionate man on the bike. And just so ya’ know, we plan to find another bicycle shop later in the week…let the adventure continue.