Tokyo diaries: Sometimes…

Sometimes I read this particular entry in my diary. It talks about an article in Asahi Shimbun about Manga creator Rosewell Hosoki who created the series, ‘Sake no Hosomochi’ about the office worker Sotatsu Iwama.  The series is about casual after work drinking sessions…that cozy hubbub feel one can only get in cafes and pubs full of chatter and exuding relaxation. The busy day has passed by and another day is yet to come…and this transition  is filled with sake, snacks and conversations. It is when I read it that sometimes my mind drifts back to a particular evening in Tokyo which felt to me like an evening after work from Iwama’s world.

I was going to Shibuya from Odaiba. While transferring from Shimbashi to Ginza line in the subway I was so taken by innumerable bakeries, cafes and stores selling all sorts of merchandise that my heart started racing. It felt like walking in a huge toy store. I explored every single shop. I stopped by Kaldi’s Coffee Farm and got a takeaway before stepping inside 3 Coins store. It had all sorts of accessories and chopsticks with Manga characters drawn on them. I bought a wooden plate with rounded edges normally used while doing money transactions. I now use it to keep pens. 

Later at Shibuya station I took my time walking in a stationery shop. Every rack was stacked with colourful pens and diaries and notebooks. I tried various shades of pink and green and violet. There were men in suits with their posh man bags browsing diaries, schoolgirls looking at file folders simultaneously browsing their phones, me looking around feeling thrilled and tired at the same time. 

At Shibuya I went to Starbucks which is apparently the best place to get the view of the busy famous crossing. I did not anticipate such a long queue. There was a young couple in front of me. The woman with white dangling earrings was wearing a white coat. I walked out and started walking towards the right. The street simmered with lights. A group of young men was shooting the street with a video camera. I stepped inside a shop with a huge display of herbal medicines. Alas, it specialized in herbals medicines for men. The shopkeeper followed my movements. The dusk had turned into night outside. I wanted to sit somewhere and take in these city movements quietly. I bowed slightly and started walking again. The streets seemed to shine even more brightly. Was everyone feeling a certain harmony? What had people I was passing by planned for that evening? 

I stepped inside Excelsior cafe. I had wanted to go to this particular one when in Osaka but could not. I enjoyed saying the regal sounding name in my mind. I took my cappuccino and found my way upstairs to the community table. It was quiet to my surprise. There were people on every table but sitting silently. Everyone had either laptop or phone in front of them accompanied by a notebook and pen.  It looked like they were studying something. Was I also supposed to take part in this ritual or was it Ok for me to sit and stare which is what I wanted to do. I took out postcards to write instead. The petite young woman in black coat and small pink handbag looked at me with a blank expression from the opposite table while busy typing away something. I recollected reading that online courses were really popular in Japan. Thus, I assumed that everyone around me was taking some kind of online course to better their skills or learn some hobby like “Deciphering abstract art”. The community table pulsated with purposefulness.  Even I wrote few postcards with purpose etched on my face. 

The night was advancing on this part of the world. There was no rest to this movement. On the way back a man was selling handbags in the station. I selected a pale green one. I handed him the credit card. But he only dealt in cash. This was the Tokyo I had read about in Michael Pronko’ s essays, where one is always a second away from a retail splurge experience and where people keep on going up and down endless levels at subway which makes one ponder if the city is on ground-ground level or three levels above or below it? I took the train back to Odaiba. I saw houses and buildings whirring past outside giving a faintish lively night glow.  I let the sight enliven my senses as I shut my eyes and let the evening go.

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