Each day it ranges between 1 °C and 5 °C here, the sky is clear and the cold penetrates and does not let go. I’ve been in colder places of course but Tokyo is designed to be cool in the summer (badly I might add, I and everyone else in the city spends three months sweating like a horse no matter where you are) and so is poorly insulated against the cold. It’s just impossible to get away from it. Also yesterday the air con choose that time to break. The flap trapping the heat in the machine instead of spreading it around the room. Also my wife fails to understand a basic concept of physics: heat can be trapped in a confined space, it leaks through the glass that takes up one side of the room but can be contained by the two sliding doors that make up the other two. She, however, is very happy to march through each of them and leave them gaping allowing all the precious heat to escape and the cold to waft through.
She’s just come in to the room, thankfully shutting the door, and is eating steaming minestrone soup, left overs from yesterday’s dinner. Dereck Jarman’s Blue plays in the background, its pointless watching it as the whole screen is nothing but a blue shade over the screen but hearing his voice accompanied by the eerie soundtrack gives the room an odd tone. The tapping, of the keys, my wife’s gentle chewing and Dereck intoning his blindness and his last days alive. This is a winter morning and my feet are cold.
I’ll brew some tea soon, perhaps my wife would like some.
Tokyo is a tiring city, the people who strain through the arteries of the city, the underground and over ground railways, all wear expressions of fatigue while some sleep outright: unashamedly dozing in public. It’s a place that makes demands of you: you must work hard, study hard, drink hard, eat hard, live hard. Not a place for complacency. My colleague lectures me every time we drink together, pausing from the diatribe to shout ‘Alright darling’ at any passing skirt, that I need to make more money, I need to have a smaller wallet as only poor people have big wallets as they need to carry change. He tells me about his conquests, confesses to being drunk, that if we ever fought he’d win. I’ve never seen anyone fight in Tokyo, it must happen but I’ve never seen it.
Reading over my shoulder my wife remarks that Roppongi is the place to go to see fights. Lots of foreigners there, lots of drunk Japanese too.
Like living in many big cities living in Tokyo is like having a relationship with a lover. Sometimes they can almost bring to orgasm with the right moment: a clear sunny sky over the skyscrapers; an inexpensive bar with a good friend; the discovery of some hidden treasure, a formerly unknown shop or museum; hidden wonders, caches to be found, but at others an argument the night before can make you wake up feeling like it’s not worth going on. Another long day stretches out before you to stumble through work and either return home to a freezing apartment or go to the same old bars to drink away the gloom. Work hard, drink hard, sleep on the train. Then wake the next morning to begin again. Tokyo though, is the relationship you’ve accepted and like all of them it’s as much of what you put in as you get out. I used to have a book of photos called Tokyo Nobody, it was famous locations of Tokyo with not a soul in sight. It was rightfully spooky seeing the normally crowded streets abandoned and bare. Tokyo would miss us if we were gone, it’s arteries, the trains, running without us, its vital blood, within them.
Tokyo holds us in its embrace hugging us tightly, tight enough that it almost seems to choke. I would struggle but the embrace is warming. It doesn’t let go and after a while I cease to struggle.
My wife dries her hair, Dereck’s voice disappears under a hymn sung by a children’s choir and I drink my tea looking out of the window at Tokyo.
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