Tokyo through her eyes

May 28, 2009

An evocative email from my lovely wife Jennifer Dumpert, just landed in Tokyo:

Under criss-crossing overhead subway lines, old Japanese men in black velvet read fortunes at rickety tables by candlelight. I noted a chart of the palm at one spot, a tarot deck in another. Teeming hordes of youth in an outstanding array of fashions poured out of tiny, winding streets lined with love hotels and “girl bars” and ramen joints onto other tiny winding streets lined with sex shops, live shows, and bars. The occasional English bit goes a long way: a bunch of kanji amidst the big letters S M, display window holding a whip; vending machines stocking a mostly incomprehensible line of items but including some dog-related thing (no idea what, exactly) called “psychic puppy mind”, a group of twenty something punk kids with their subway tickets stuck in their noses taking a photo of themselves, gigglingly yelling in chorus a phonetic version of “Say Cheese!”, odd as hell until their camera, just before capturing the shot, emits a digital “say cheese”.

I went into a pachinko parlor and recorded the sound, one part vegas, one part, well, the sound of thousands of ball bearings clacking against each other. Watched people play and tried to figure it out. Incomprehensible. Game arcades everywhere: Pachinko, high tech complex screen affairs, the screeching, shooting, dinging sort we might have visited in our own youths. Drunk people everywhere too, business men standing in a circle, holding each other’s arms and swaying as they volley what even I can tell is an endless round of respect and good night; slim, tastefully dressed women stumbling sideways, caught by passers by; raucous young men singing badly in unison. City everywhere. I’ve never seen anything even approaching this urban. Like moss that creeps into every available crack, this ultra dense Blade Runner city spread thick over every inch of the tiny byways and random side roads of an ancient city, cut across by subways and trains and multi-lane avenues.

Must be seen to be believed.

Wish I could!