A Serial Loser: Roaming Tokyo With No Wallet or Passport
He bumbles aimlessly through the station, his sandy brown hair a beacon, head and shoulders above the tide of mostly black. He has no passport and no wallet. He is a ghost – a shadow, staring with blank confusion at the tangled train timetable, buzzing his hotel room key at the turnstile instead of his train pass. He is a Baka Gaijin. A foreign idiot in Tokyo.
The lettuce and mystery meat sandwich is watching me. From the corner of my eye, I gauge it warily. The wonder white bread looks puffy and stale. The crust is warped, concave in the centre, lifting itself off the red plastic airline tray. It looks squished — uncomfortable. Actually, it’s how I imagine I look to my fellow passengers: hunched irritably in the window seat (directly over the wing) of row 49. I’m hungry, and as my tummy rumbles over the gravelly whine of the turbines, the sandwich momentarily shimmers into a pesto toastie, oozing melted cheese. The elderly Japanese lady seated next to me must have noticed my wolfish glance. She points, smiles, and says something in her native tongue, roughly translating to:
Do you want my shitty McShit sandwich?
I am touched by her kindness. And yes, I do want that shit sandwich. But my pride won’t let me take it, so I decline with a shake of my head and a polite smile. I would buy my own, but, on New Year’s Eve, a few days prior to a lengthy solo trip to a foreign country wherein I will be able to communicate with next to no-one, I lost my wallet.
It was 7:30 pm, December 31st, and I was still semi-coherent. The sun was lowering behind the sand-dune system, lighting the undersides of rogue puffs of cloud with vivid oranges and pinks. I patted my pockets, a routine valuables check, and frowned to myself as I felt my wallet.
You’ve got a big international trip looming. Maybe you should put it in a safe place.
That was sober me. A rational thought ballooning through the fog. Unfortunately, after a certain number of beers, I passed the trust threshold and put too much faith in Drunk Isaac.
Nah, you’ve got yummy drugs in the coin department. There’s nothing to buy in the sandhills — it won’t leave your pocket.
Beyond that flimsy internal reasoning, I don’t remember much, and I woke to the harsh sun beating down on me. Once I forced my bleary, sand-crusted eyes into a somewhat open position, I started to suspect I was not in my own swag. This one was pink. The mouthful of auburn hair I received as I turned over confirmed it.
From behind the next dune came the ear splitting sounds of Darude’s Sandstorm and the nonsensical screams of those still partying. It kick started my half-sleepy, half-pissed brain into gear, and I tried to recall some of last night’s events. Flashes of flying sand, a laughing girl, some midnight bacon and the prick of sharp stones under my bare feet are my only memories.
Awkwardly, we said our goodbyes and promised to add each other on Facebook. As I trudged groggily back to my campsite, I did a routine valuables check to find my pockets bare.
But it was sparrow fart and I was too tired to care.
I slept until it got too hot to stay in my swag. In the middle of the South Australian summer, on the edge of the Nullarbor plain, that’s about 11 in the morn. I spotted a scavenger from a local fishing village with a metal detector, coming to prey on the lost treasures of drunken frolickers, and convinced him to let me use his machine. Barefoot, I padded tenderly over the hot sand, avoiding squashed tin cans and broken glass.
I was more hopeful of finding Dad’s barbeque, which I’d also managed to misplace that night. I found car keys and some stray spoons, but, sadly for my pounding head, I returned home empty-handed to the stern admonishment of both parents.
Those admonishments are still ringing in my ears as I slouch in my economy class seat, swallowing a juicy mouthful of pride and what I’m guessing to be turkey.
You’re hopeless! Make sure you take a picture of your passport and flight itinerary. I have this horrible feeling you’ll end up in a Japanese prison.
That was Mum. Forever pessimistic about my organisational skills and street knowledge. Dad was blunter.
You owe me a fucking barbeque.
I packed light, but in addition to some winter clothes, I have with me my passport, a faulty prepaid travel card and a determination to silence my parents. I will emerge from this trip incident free, proving to Mum that I have some small shred of nous. I sent Dad my (inferior) barbeque as a replacement.
It’s Saturday, the second weekend of my trip abroad, and I’m thirsty. When I close my eyes I see the neon lights of Shibuya and my leg twitches involuntarily as I struggle to stifle the dank instep that has become my signature dance move. Some newfound friends and I make plans for the night and amongst them is the possibility of hitting a club. I’ll need some ID, and since I have no driver’s license, I’m left with one option: passport.
This is a very important document. You mustn’t lose your ticket home, you dickhead.
I stare at my passport. I stare at my pocket. I repeat the sequence over and over so as to cement the relationship in my mind.
Outside, the gauzy pink and grey buildings have been muted by the night sky, making each street look like the last. Luckily, someone has Google Maps open, and I totter contentedly behind, trying to blow shapes with the condensation. The street lights become unnecessary as we enter the party district and the flash of clubs and bars become more prominent.
The entrance to our chosen venue is nondescript: a doorway lined with fairy lights and a flight of concrete stairs. From the basement floor screams of joy and a throbbing baseline escape past a dented tin door. We head there. Someone thrusts a shot into my hand, and then another into my other. We scream in unison:
I wake to find myself atop a leather-style massage bed. It sticks to my back as I attempt to roll over and there is an absence of both pillow and doona. Instead, I am curled up underneath a towel, trying desperately to retain some warmth. The only shreds of consciousness I have from the night before revolve mostly around food: a soggy burger, crispy chicken from the konbini and takoyaki — fried octopus and flour balls cooked by a frail old Japanese lady in the smoky north-west corner of the bar.
Did I get a massage last night?
Seeing as I have company beneath the towel, I eventually put two and two together. The Japanese, who typically live in small and thin-walled apartments, have purpose-built love hotels for the randy. The box-like space features a heater — which we must have forgotten to turn on in our haste, because it’s cold as shit — and the bed slash mat on which we lie. We dress and leave straight away, keen to escape the discomfort and awkward post one-night stand small talk.
On the train, as I struggle to keep my head from drooping to my chest, I do a valuables check to find my pocket empty. The Japanese businessman beside me gives me a strange look, something between disdain and pity, as I groan like a disgruntled alpaca on the otherwise silent ride. Finding a passport on the streets of Tokyo seems a more futile mission than locating a wallet in the dunes.
Later, I receive a Snapchat from my New Year’s fling. In the background is an unrolled pink swag, and in the fore, a black leather wallet brimming with valuable plastic. I ring Mum to give her the mixed news.
Isaac, you are a fucking idiot.