So here I go again, after a ten-year-hiatus in this chaotic, hot, noisy, ugly but at the same time ultra-sophisticated, comfortable and yes, at times even charming city, picking up the threads I dropped 10 years ago - business connections, friendship, favorite restaurants and funky bars.
Some things have not changed at all, others I can hardly recognize. (If you want to know what are the 10 things that I think has changed the most, and the ones the least, here is my list. I know it's cheesy but I just could not resist of the temptation...).
But on a more serious note, the changes are really stunning; particularly the ones have taken place in the physical world: new skyscrapers, underground lines and tunnels, gizmos and so on. But mentality changes are also significant. Tokyo appears to me a much more open, cosmopolitan city, while being a foreigner speaking Japanese is less of a sensation than it used to be - and I like it that way.
As a result of all of these, Tokyo has become a more international and a lot more livable place; a kinder, gentler metropolis with increasingly better cultural offering, accessibility and environmental awareness.
But good life is not enough to base a country's future upon. Japan cannot rest comfortably any more on the reputation as the country that manufactures the smallest gadgets and most reliable cars. It is clear that Japan has to reinvent herself, find a new paradigm which can ignite the next 50 years of wealth and growth.
Fortunately, there is much to start from; the world is increasingly interested in Japanese culture, and here I do not only mean Edo-era ukiyo-e and samurai mystique but contemporary culture, as well. Japanese cinema, anime, graphic and industrial design, and yes! architecture is at the cutting edge of the world. Rather than trying to build the cleverest gadgets - China will claim that title soon enough - why not become the design and art capital of Asia?
Bence Kovács, Hungary
Architect, Managing Director