Monday, September 13, 2010

Memories Are Made of This

Flashes of former days, pangs of nostalgia and thoughts of then…

Rainy Season Tokyo—

An all day pall of pounding rain. The streets of Shibuya a mess. Walking is rarely easy there, but harder still in the curtain of rain. Being out and about becomes a rumple of wet umbrellas, damp bodies, crowded buses and trains—all of it nasty and made horribly uncomfortable by the raging humidity…

Now hot, humid, bright and oppressive, the rain in temporary retreat but leaving a dampness of multiplied stickiness on clothes and skin.

Overheard at Church—

Masako E. has an ingrown toenail, but is afraid of needles. Yuki Y’s father has to have the other big toe amputated, his second loss to diabetes. Jonelle’s phlebitis spread to her vocal chords and forced her to give up choir. Pray for her. Pray for them.

Sights on the Train—

Young businessmen on the way to work, the ubiquitous blue suit, and on their feet a pair of snowy white socks inside black or brown dress shoes. Flash forward twenty-five years and it’s no longer the standard white socks, but the hugely popular white or gray ankle socks with the business suit and dress shoes—a flirtation with fashion crime.

Waiting for Kumiko—

Tokyu Plaza, place of old memories over the years in Tokyo. It once housed an excellent Kinokuniya Bookstore, but since the large Shinjuku branch at Times Square opened, this one has slipped into the category of second-rate. No more stationery goods, few books in English…

Sitting in the lobby café, a fourth or fifth regeneration café now called the Morozoff Soda Fountain. Crammed full, like everywhere in Shibuya at 6:00 pm on a Saturday. Sipping iced coffee, wondering if the waitress balancing a tray of what looks like six fruit sodas chartreuse green and bubbling with scoops of ice cream will safely work her way through the congested squish of tiny tables.

Doutor Housewives—

Amazing to me that others in the small room of eight tables are able to sit as though all around them was a state of perfect quiet. Conditioning from birth is the likeliest reason. On the other hand, I have to bite my tongue to stifle a rude remark. A gaggle of giggling, chattering, clacking housewives enter and wrestle three tables together, close all the window shades to darken the sunlit room, and like magpies on Amphetamine, all talking at once destroy completely the peace of a late afternoon. They have a peculiar skill of all talking at the same time, yet never missing a word of what each one of the group is saying.

Big Time—

Buying the trainman’s pocket watch at Nakajima-san’s small secondhand shop on the corner. Admiring the watch in the window, giving in after a week. It is a big watch, a Seiko quartz, silver-plated, made in 1989 and the very same model used by all train drivers and conductors in Japan. Cheap at ¥8,000, it becomes one of my treasures.


In 2004 Yokohama Station was renovated, a completely new redesign of the 1928 structure. Soon after the renovation, which erased the old station’s interior layout, I find myself inches from an anxiety attack in trying to find my way out. Certainly there are improvements, but the new station is now an impossible maze, an almost-prison designed to keep people wandering in underground circles looking for one of the fifty or more exits. Often taking as much as thirty minutes to find the desired exit, then discovering you’re on the wrong side for buses going to your destination. Call it a preview, a shallow hell.

One Christmas Dinner—

A fine cook, Kumiko outdoes herself this time. We sit down to a beef stew, a huge salmon pie, a Japanese salad, an Italian-style green salad, assorted cheeses, Japanese pickles, two bottles of Cabernet, a chocolate cake and pots of coffee. I go home later with new fur lined slippers.

No comments:

Post a Comment

About Me

My photo
Oak Hill, Florida, United States
A longtime expat relearning the footwork of life in America