On the 29th, we were back in Tokyo after another swift Shinkansen ride.
Our first task was to find our rental house for the night, and our directions were typical of the city: exit this station, pass this convenience store, keep walking along the massive cemetery, and find a pedestrian alley entrance between a catering shop and a florist.
Neglected cemetery stairs.
A tunnel above ground.
After entering a combination lock on a mailbox, we extracted a small envelope of keys, looked over our shoulders, and opened the door.
Roppongi House was rented on AirBNB at a reasonable rate. It was an old building, crusty and worn on the outside in keeping with the appearance of the other modest units that hadn’t been torn down yet. Compared to our last hotel rooms, having more than a single room felt luxurious. The place had three bedrooms, two toilet closets (one modified squat/one western), a mildewy shower room, and a living area and small kitchen space. The stairway to the upper floor was narrow and dark. The sleeping areas had woven floors and traditional mats and bedding.
We chose to sleep in the back room to avoid the street noise. Instead, we got an earful of ravens and construction.
Our living area.
The squat toilet, with attachment and sink that turned on automatically with the flush to fill the tank.
Green windows of a mildewed shower.
That night we went to hidden restaurant that our welcome binder recommended.
Since there were no clear signs outside the windowless building, we opened the door cautiously and peeked inside.
“[ Long Japanese greeting and other pleasantries ] ” said the host.
I held up two fingers.
“Surface for two, please.”
After a long reply that left J and I stupefied, the cheerful host started talking in simple English. He seated us at the floor level bar. Since it was early, only one other couple was eating.
Thankfully, an English menu made ordering possible.
We tried fried Japanese yam with a sesame sauce, grilled spicy beef, and a hot pot of chicken and vegetables that cooked at our table.
Everything was flavorful and fresh tasting. The staff really seemed to be enjoying themselves behind the counter. They cracked jokes and smiled as they took and fulfilled orders.
After the meal, we left the restaurant through a variety of bows, handshakes, and walking backwards while smiling.
Movie: Sherlock Holmes.
On Friday, J and I walked to Meguro Station to meet a friend of a friend. He had been living in Japan again since the tsunami, and had recently started working again in Tokyo as an artist.
We ate tender sautéed beef tongue for lunch while discussing life, love, longing, and being licked by our food.
Another bike getting taken over by vines.
Gaining water weight.
Blue metal door.
Life finds a way.
Fingers of death.
Bridge near Meguro Station.
That afternoon, I met up with an old coworker who was recently put in charge of branch office over there. It was good to see him again and get the inside scoop of life, love, longing, and getting licked by our jobs. Both of us seemed older than the last time we had met.
Time and responsibility wears on the body and spirit.
I finished talking earlier than planned, and J wasn’t back at our meeting spot. She was lost somewhere nearby, and I couldn’t blame her. It was easy to do, even with a blue dot as reference on a map. But it was cold waiting outside the Starbucks trying to act cool.
A small grocery store provided groceries for dinner: soba, tofu, green-skinned pumpkin, sesame marinade, and pickled radish.
Saturday, we made the novice’s mistakes of having no agenda and not checking the weather.
We decided to go to the end of one of the subway lines, but exited before its northernmost point. We were in nowhere special, and it was starting to rain. Without an umbrella, photos were impossible, and walking wasn’t going to be fun.
We ducked under the awning of an abandoned store and orientated ourselves on a map. We decided to walk along a canal to another train station and head home.
Dark clouds were above, and everyone but us was inside.
We passed a dreary neighborhood decorated with lanterns and banners. Loudspeakers piped in happy music into the empty streets, making them feel even creepier.
Suicide prevention systems.
We reached the station, mildly wet. It serviced a local train, which though visually similar to both the subway and above ground trains, somehow has negative connotations.
The adventure was a bust, but there’s no shame in going back to a rented house to play games of rummy, eat green tea flavored desserts, and watch our clothes dry above a radiator.
This life was a dream, and tomorrow we would have to fly backwards in time to reality.