Perhaps the most famous film about Tokyo city at the moment is ‘Lost in Translation’. They at least were lucky enough to be able to swan around in fancy hotels and see the city in limousine luxury. At the working end of life in the city, it’s very different. Trying being lost in the city hall to register as an alien to obtain an ID card. In spite of efficiency, everything takes that little bit longer than expected.
I have set myself various missions for life in the city.
Mission number one: join a gym.
Of course, I don’t speak a word of Japanese and there were various rules that had to be explained to me before I could join. I have a helpful friend in the city, thankfully!
I was asked the most hilarious question, “Have you ever been a member of Yakuza?”. If I’d ever been a member of any such group, I would be skilled enough to keep it a secret, so the question is void before it’s asked. Or, I would just bribe or threaten the management for entry in the sports club. The front line staff wouldn’t know a thing about it.
Mission number two: fit in
I don’t think that is ever going to happen. This has nothing to do with my nationality. I dance, sing, tap, hum and click my way to work, it’s easy to stand out when I behave like this. The route to work is always crowded and I feel like I’m playing platform game walking the distance between the station and work.
Mission three: Get to work on time and alive.
If there are nine million bicycles in Beijing, there must be nine and a half in Tokyo. The rules are quite relaxed, but I fear I will come home with tyre marks across my face. I’ve also invented a phrase for the commute to work, it applies to all countries with metro systems and travelling at peak times, ‘people jam’. Sometimes I’m pasted onto the train windows, sometimes I manage to get a seat. Then I often find people swaying into me, like ballasts at the side of a moored yacht. Now that rainy season is about to begin, I face one last challenge, dodging umbrellas. Usually this is not a problem for me as most places I visit, people are at least a foot taller than me. Now the danger exists at my height. At least the view is colourful instead of the usual sea of black. The view of the streets from above probably looks like sugar-coated-smarties.
Mission four: make some friends.
This was a very easy task in Moscow. I always had someone crazy and available to be crazy with in the city. Gay clubs, roller skating, film clubs, language exchanges, Lindy hop, it was all available. Aside from being miserable outside, it was fairly bustling inside, I never rested during the weekends, I used my time at work to do that. I’m lucky that I live with two amazing girls, one of whom has to be the Chinese-American version of Pink. So I decided to attend an international party and find out about the ex-pat scene. For a start, there were more men than women, more Japanese women than Western women. I have found out what it feels like to be positively discriminated against, they gave me a discount. Judging by the gender imbalance I thought it wouldn’t be easy to meet others to make friends with. Most of the women didn’t want to make friends with me. They’re too busy conducting interviews of prospective boyfriends and husbands, female company is redundant.
At least the Japanese guys said, “hello” and I managed to find out more about the city. I was fortunate enough to meet the driest Canadian, as dry a cactus spine, in comparison to his Australian counterparts. I couldn’t take too much Canadian sarcasm, but I admire Australian spirit. An Australian I used to know was game enough to go to a gay male strip club in return for my services as cupid one crazy evening.
Mission five: return to my own body
I’ve travelled a number of places, and I class myself as well travelled. However, I’ve never sat in same place for 12 hours in a row, I normally prefer transfers. It took a number of days to feel like myself again. It was like a miracle one sunny morning when I woke and all of I sudden, I felt sexy. There is a fine line between wanting to have sex and feeling sexy. The latter can continue on it’s own all day, even a t-shirt rubbing against freshly washed skin feels exciting. I sauntered and sizzled around the streets of my little town that day and shopped for delicate second-hand items and books. I began to make sense of my new surroundings.