I’d love to say that the title of this particular episode begins and ends in a lust filled, drunken rager where I was fawned over by beautiful Japanese women and taken hostage by the Yakuza, but it actually was much quieter and less cinematic.
Something you notice when you travel alone to a strange land, where no one speaks your language, and you speak very little of theirs, is how absurdly inundated with words you are.
The isolation is both terrifying and serene. The silencing of your native tongue hauntingly beautiful, so that when you see a word you can read on a tourist shop, or hear the cheery tones of the automated subway you at first cling to them. They are lifelines, and eventually, you begin to forget that you can’t start a conversation with anyone. The few times you see another non-Japanese traveler you wave or nod, and they do back, not out of some common travelers kin, you don’t really know them from Adam, but instead simply to acknowledge that you haven’t slipped into the aether.
but I digress.
I arrived at my hotel, and with a little bit of my broken Japanese, and the clerk’s impressive handling of Japanese I was able to get to my room.
The hotel I stayed at was modern, thin, and the upper floors were a pale charcoal, the rooms themselves were an even lighter shade of gray. My room was predictably small, but ingeniously designed.
The bed was pillowy soft, and without much hesitation I passed out on top of sheets. I still wasn’t feeling well and jet lag had hit me hard. It was only 6pm.
At 3:00 am I awoke feeling wide awake. It was a curious feeling being wide awake, cold ridden in middle of the night (morning?) in a foreign country. I tried in vain to get back to sleep, and failed. I called my parents via skype, and explored my room, but found myself itching to go outside. Eventually, curiosity won out.
The view from my room at 3 am revealed empty streets. I would soon learn that the middle of the night was one of the only times a man could find empty streets in Tokyo, and even then they weren’t that empty.
My first trek into the street brought me to a small back alleyway right outside my hotel. It was largely empty, but the whole place held a magical appeal and still does, despite it being perfectly ordinary. Vending machines hummed, and far above I heard a noise.
Music lazily droned over quickly spoken Japanese, and laughter interspersed with the clink of glasses. In the quiet of 3 am the rather small party far above me sounded like a rancor. Part of me dreamed of climbing that highrise, knocking on the door and somehow getting invited to the party. Then I sneezed and the idea seemed to fly out of head with it
The streets were slick and quiet, but the weather was not unpleasantly cool. I passed some kids about 18 who were heading home, or to another bar, either way, I waved as they passed, and they waved back. at this point I was getting tired again, and started to head back.
It was then I saw the first but not the last of Tokyo’s homeless population. The woman, who was pushing 50, walked upright with clean clothes. at the time I wondered what she was doing out, it hadn’t hit me yet that she had no place to go.
(A vending machine with DBZ Characters!)
The Shibuya district’s streets at night are a visual feast, albeit an overwhelming one.
With a heavy sigh, my tired body stumbled back to the hotel, and there I slept again, this time for only a few more hours. I awoke, this time truly awake, and ready to take on Japan!