Edit Blog Post
Published: April 30th 2007
Getting there is half the cost
Tokyo lies 1000km east of Hiroshima. A one hour flight connects the two cities but airport connectors, queuing, waiting, and queuing some more quickly becomes four hours, the same time a bullet train takes. And I don't need to book a seat. I just show up at the machine with my credit card, punch in my details and wammo, i am ready to go. Japan invented convenience. There are at least two direct nozomi super express trains each hour connecting Fukuoka and Tokyo on the Sanyo/ Tokaido line, the longest stretch of shinkansen track. Sixteen sleek white cars charge across Honshu at speeds reaching 300km/h, connecting Japan's major cities: Osaka, Kyoto, Nagoya, Yokohama, Tokyo, and passing some spectacular landscape, like the views of Mt Fuji from Shizuoka-ken.
This was my fourth trip to Tokyo in as many years but my first time alone and with all intensive purposes, to find a good rebound romance. In conservative Japan, all self loving gays head to Tokyo. I made a few preparations ahead of time and planned to meet an old friend for an afternoon coffee in Daikanyama
, a posh neighbourhood of boutiques, cafes and flashy
Mt Fuji seen from the Tokaido shinkansen line aboard the Nozomi superexpress, Shizuoka-ken
sports cars, a short climb from Ebisu
. The shink pulled in mid afternoon to a perfectly clear sky. I scrambled through Tokyo station and found the JR Yamanote line. Have you ever taken a look at Tokyo's Transportation Network map? It looks like Paris and London and Berlin subway systems all overlapped. And it continues to grow! Besides emails, Shun and I had not spoken since my last visit in March 2003. We have both gained about 5 kilos in the interim. Shun had since spent a year loafing around Sydney's beaches and bars, and improving his English. He is happy back in Tokyo for the moment working part time computer data input, I think is how he put it. His sojourn in Sydney was cut short by a call from home. His mother was in hospital after falling head first on the sidewalk when a cyclist collided with her. She sustained a concussion. And nearly two years later can not yet speak coherently. It wasn't an awkward conversation. Shun, like most Japanese in my experience, can keep different parts of their life in different 'compartments' like an obento box, and one compartment does not affect the others. Such stories
Catching up with an old aquaintance, and admiring the grafitti, near Shibuya station
seem to be told as if they were merely statistics. Maybe its something lost in translation. In the work 'compartment', Shun is not openly gay. Big surprise! Even in Tokyo Japanese gays hide in shame. He has noticed some new co-workers at the gay bars though, so he's considering his options. Shun is a great guy but shy which doesn't go well with a big city lifestyle. There are set ways to meeting people and making friends in Japan. Gays have to find ulterior means. I learned from one fellow, Dimitri, a muscled Carribean-born Parisien working in Roppongi for a French finance company, that all the foreign investment firms in Roppongi had organized a gay social club. Over iced coffees in laid-back Omotesando
, Tokyo's answer to Paris hip, Dimitri explained that after six months here he is feeling ready to move on. His digs sound amazing - walking distance to work, to the gym and to countless high-end bars and restaurants. Personally, I'd be very curious to live in his shoes for a day. Unfortunately, Dimitri and I didn't have a chance to meet again.
From Daikanyama, Shun and I strolled a windy avenue cluttered with chic pedestrians and
found our way into the backdoor of Shibuya
, famed for its "scramble" zebra crossing. Shun led me through a department store, a maze of elevators and book stores and hidden passage ways to find a public toilet without a twenty person wait. Funny, but I'd had a very similar experience on my last trip. I thought my host searching the back halls of Roppongi Hills, an upmarket mall and office tower, was into kinky WC encounters but he just had a strong aversion to germs. Shun then led me out front of Shibuya stationto have a gander at the 'scramble'. Wow! It's no Angkor Wat but it's impressive. Whereas London's Trafalgar Square revolves around Nelson's column, Shibuya is a stage where spectators, either balancing on traffic posts or sitting in Starbucks 2F, witness the real art of Tokyo, its hip and trendy citizens, all converging and tangling and detangling every few minutes.
Japan's love of shopping is a serious past-time in Tokyo. In previous trips to the city I'd seen groups of high school boys riding the JR embracing stuffed bears and the sudden explosion a few years back of cowboy boots then men's leather pouches that clip onto
Robert, Shun & I
5:30 we called the party quits
belts. This time round all the young guys were wearing plaid: bright greens and pinks on white, a scrubbed version of my junior highschool days. Tokyo is fast paced. I love that escalator riders 'stand' to the left, and not once did I see young woman in Tokyo walking pigeon toed as is so fashionable feminine in Hiroshima. Or it could have been I just wasn't looking at the women!? In a city of 12 million, at one of its biggest cross roads, I spotted in the crowd a familiar face, Andrew, a JET I'd known in Kure a year back. We had a good laugh. Somehow, because Japan is so strange like this, and because fellow Gaijins often find themselves in the same 'compartment', such chance encounters are not so strange. Andrew has been living and working in Tokyo, polishing his Japanese, but is off within the month to his native UK to find employment with better prospects. I actually bumped into Andrew a few nights later while standing in the rain outside Tully's coffee in Midtown, the new and very chic shopping high-rise a block from Roppongi Hills.
Shun and my adventure takes a nap in a
quiet flat in Kanagawa
prefecture on a train line south of Tokyo, in preparation for an all nighter at ageha, one of Tokyo's top party destinations, located in the bay two stops short of Tokyo Disney and Chiba
prefecture. We had a late start on the evening, scrambling to make train connections, failing to meet up with his mates. At half past midnight we arrived at a queue of some 2000 queers expecting to wait 90 minutes to reach the doors. Shun's buddies had already entered inside the first gate so we gave up jumping the line. Fortunately the bouncer recognized Shun and let the two of us in the door. I have never! It was awesome. Imagine all the sour faces in the line! The rest of the evening wasn't so amazing. We found our friends, mingled, explored the three dance floors. It was way too crowded to enjoy dancing or drinking without the fear of a long wait for the pisser. I couldn't remember ever seeing so many gays together in Japan. It was impressive. But for 40$ I expected better entertainment, free lockers or a drink coupon. Even small watered-down cocktails were pricey. Somebody pocketed a huge
amount of cash that night. The only entertainment was a ten minute strip tease by a half dozen young guys in white bath towels. What they saved in costumes could have been spent on stronger drinks, in my opinion. I much prefer a stiff drink.
The next afternoon, the sun still shining, Shun and I grabbed a to-go order from Mr Donuts and hopped the JR to Yoyogi Park
, behind Harajuku
Station, once famed for its bizarre people watching. With only a couple hours left of daylight, we ignored the few goth princesses and ugly painted faces still lingering outside the gates. Inside a handful of rockers in Elvis style hairdos and leather jackets danced to 50s rock next to a gang of skaters and stunt cyclists. Hi-fi Speakers are forbidden in the park but all along its periphery musicians perform, singing, strumming, drumming, dancing, smoking their hearts out. I love Yoyogi Koen. It is relaxed and so carefree, like a sister to Amsterdam's Vondel Park. Shun and I took up a perch by the fountains, listened to a group of drummers, and watched the people on parade, joggers, young families, foreigners on expensive road bikes, shirtless studs and
young women strutting in short skirts. Is that a man or a woman? Where do you think she's from? What language are they speaking? After a couple beers the sun was setting. We joined Dimitri for a coffee a short walk away in Jingu-mae, a maze of laid back open air cafes and ethnic bistros. Dimitri was nothing like I had expected. The internet can easily confuse perceptions.
Tot: 1.816s; Tpl: 0.071s; cc: 24; qc: 128; dbt: 0.0751s; 1; m:saturn w:www (220.127.116.11); sld: 3;
; mem: 1.8mb