The Real Tokyo Blues
The black coffee reflects the vague shape of a little boy who thinks he’s a man. It’s rather off-putting, to be honest. Like the transition stage between looking too young to be considered old, but looking too old to be considered young.
He scrutinises this a bit more; his nose is swollen and kinda twisted. Eye boogers cake his sty infected bloodhound eyes. His mangy five o’clock shadow is already established, oh, and is that a new pimple to add to the collection? Very cool.
His head thumps with the anxiety of the past, present and future, mixed with bad decisions from the night prior thanks to his spiritual friend Osake-san. Cheap Japanese cigarettes coat his insides in a temporary ashy love. Its refuse bleeds from his brown skin and evaporates into Tokyo’s winter air, making him one with the sky, he likes to think.
The little boy likes to lie to himself: it’s the only way he can feel some semblance of achievement in life. Like how the reason he’s in this foreign country is in order to network and develop necessary skills for his future career. Like how that cheap shochu from the konbini he drank last night was all in the name of forming deep relationships. Like how he’s now telling himself that a short stroll around the neighbourhood will do him good, somehow.
Stressed salarymen rush past him on their vintage-like bikes in a monochromatic haze, too focused to notice the dumb gaijin boy stumbling about in a stupor close to midday on a Wednesday. He looks up at the towering Tokyo metropolis, hallucinating all these buildings caving in on him and engulfing him into its corporate machine. He shudders at the thought of being another cog in the wheel. He’d rather stroll about aimlessly and believe that he’s free from the oppressive capitalist grip while contributing nothing of worth to society.
“Shuumeemashen,” he slurs to the mother of the terrified kid he almost trampled over while rounding a corner. Upon seeing the seemingly happy family, he feels the parasite inside him violently wriggling and embedding itself further into his nicotine-covered heart. This parasite has been with him since that night his ex said, “I don’t love you anymore”, and it has remained, feeding off the lies the little boy tells himself. Fruitlessly, he tries to shake it off, then heads down into the nearest metro station.
A cacophony of overworked eyes blend into each other. Trains are filled to the brim with disposable facemasks. Maps of Tokyo’s many lines are a cell; a Shinjuku nucleus boldly cements itself in the centre.
The little boy steps onto the train, receiving weird glances and second takes from the busy locals, though he tries to pay no mind. Advertisements of handsome white men and beautiful Japanese women envelope his senses. He feels the wriggle again as he gawks at the complex kanji, like an old man who’s too stubborn to buy glasses but desperately needs them, deciphering which station he should get off at.
Leaving the station, Tokyo’s icy climate sucker punches him. The cold wind claws at his oily face but never manages to get a grip. His two-layered outfit sticks out like a sore thumb in the sea of homogenous black and white coats. The occasional eccentric ensemble will catch his eye: from cute girls dressed in cybergoth lolita, twirling and posing for the camera, to stunning men dressed in expensive techware, looking stoic as fuck.
He knows that he’ll never be able to pull off something so extravagant – his brown skin and dark circles stop him. Yet he dreams of the day when he’ll walk around Harajuku’s famed Takeshita-dori as dozens of locals admire his bomb fit. Photographers will beg him to take photos for the Instagram pages he follows, he hopes. For now, he’ll just admire and lie to himself.
Thousands of people flood the street at a time, nary a sound to be heard but footsteps and the occasional conversation. The little boy believes that exposed powerlines are the veins to the heart of Tokyo, that being Kabukichō – Shinjuku’s red light district. As veins carry blood to the heart for reoxygenation, so too do the lines carry the little boy’s weary soul for rejuvenation. Follow the lines and it’ll be fine, he thinks.
The famous, omnipotent Kabukichō sign stands as a beacon of hope for the lost little boy. The allure of 300 yen drinks, dingy basement ramen joints and cheap blowjob bars intoxicates him. He likes to think he’s surviving on a pittance and that he’s really thrifty, but here he is, back to the same place where he started. Back to greet his spiritual friend Osake-san and suck on his cheap ciggies as hours melt into each other. Back to laying down outside a flashy arcade, talking in broken Japanese to the locals who are fascinated with the brown gaijin’s mannerisms. Back to drowning the parasite in as much alcohol as possible.
The cycle repeats itself with no end in sight.