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04 Apr 2009: Five Years On

A picture

Keiko And Tomoko: They Said I Look Thinner

We slept for about 2 hours as Kai was up pretty much most of the night.

The following morning I boarded the Oedo line subway and took a journey all the way round Tokyo back to Nakano-sakaue. I wanted to see the old place again, I wanted to know how it would make me feel.

It was odd. I got there quite early, before most of the shops had woken up. My old friend the Olympic store was still there, but it was not due to open for another half hour, so I couldn't indulge in a trip around shopping memory lane. Pietra, a small but great Italian restaurant, also still there. Aki and I had considered going there again for dinner, but it was not to be - Nakano-sakaue was too far away and events were due to conspire against us.

The Across City Nakano-sakaue building was still present of course, my flat probably now occupied by someone else. Someone else who would appreciate the view and advantageous position atop a Marunouchi line station. I also saw the same guy at Hair Hombre, the man who used to cut my hair while I lived in Japan; I didn't drop in to say konnichi wa or o hisashiburi desu.

The weather was appalling. Ferocious wind and rain were trying to put me off my original plan which was to walk to Shinjuku from Nakano-sakaue, like I always used to do. I persevered despite the torrent. Most of the walk was the same, although I felt more like a foreigner this time around. A Starbucks I used to frequent in the Nishi-shinjuku building was still there as well as a nearby Subway sandwich shop.

Once I got to Shinjuku, my umbrella had already been inverted numerous times and my trousers and shoes were soaked. That didn't stop me meeting up with two old friends from the Wilco days: Keiko-san and Tomoko-san.

Keiko is a full-time mother at present while Tomoko is still charting her future, talking about early retirement. We ate at a macrobiotic restaurant in Isetan near Shinjuku-sanchome. To our surprise, Tomoko now has a mobile phone, although she still lives without a television. She asked me a few questions about my writing, which I indulged.

This was the most taxing foray into Japanese I'd experienced since I sat my 2-kyuu Nihongo exam in 2005. Most of the conversation simply happened around me but I made good on the illusion of participation.