Sunday, August 13, 2006

A Tokyo Story (told in the Present Continuous Tense)

You step out of the icy airy cool of your aircon apartment and into a humid greenhouse heat. Down the tin steps and into the narrow labyrinthine streets, your shirt is already beginning to stick to your back.

You weave your way out of the maze, through the jumbled jungle of concrete and steel and along to the main road.

At the traffic signals people wait patiently to cross, but upon turning green a swarm of bicycles appear from nowhere and scatter across the road like some crazed formation display team

You reach the station, walk through its cathedral-like opening, and go over to the ticket machine. You only have a ¥ 2000 note, but the machine never runs out of change.

Through the gate, up the stairs and onto the platform, you’re looking at the electronic board waiting for the English to scroll round, but you know your train will never be more than five minutes away. And it will never be late.

The train arrives, and although commuters have been queuing patiently along designated lines, you know the moment the doors open it’s a free-for-all.

Inside the carriage, the benches are plush and run along the length of the cabin. The temperature is cool and the windows are huge – big enough to watch the muddled buildings glide past.

No one is talking on their phones, yet everyone is staring intently at their screen – playing games, sending email or selecting another tune from their iTunes phone library. A Japanese businessman is falling asleep, his head nodding until his chin is on his chest. You arrive at the station and are back out into the heat.

Later that evening you are wandering through the streets and its getting dark. Everything is lit up. Signs in the street point to bars and restaurant up dark staircases or down in basements. Promotional staff are trying to hand you toilet tissues wrapped in adverts. You graciously decline.


You wander aimlessly through a sea of faces. Some look like Japanese versions of people you know. Some catch your eye but most don’t. Women are mostly wearing summery skirts and high heels, but some are wearing kimonos. The men are wearing T-shirts with badly-translated English slogans that now make no sense.

You scan the shops. You can’t read a word of Japanese, but you’re pretty sure that’s a record shop, and that’s a cafĂ©, and that’s an amusement arcade.

You enter a restaurant to a chorus of “welcomes” from every member of staff. You make yourself understood by pointing at the photos in the menu. Though the restaurant is full, everyone is there alone and they all eat in silence.

Back at home you flick through the channels secretly deluding yourself you’ll find anything you’ll understand. You fiddle with the air-conditioner until you think the temperatures right. Then you go to bed.

2 comments:

Paul in China said...

They say imitation is the highest form of flattery :-)

giacomo said...

Baddah-bing, badda-boom.