If I’m training in the morning before work, I am up at 0350 and out the door by 0400. But, on the days I decide to train after work, I get up at the leisurely, cake eating time of 0530.
I wake up and I shower, shave, groom, etc. Then, I have coffee. Then, I have another coffee. And finally I have another coffee. I sip these, generally, while sitting at my writing desk which faces big sliding glass doors looking out on West Ikebukuro. The view isn’t much; general urban sprawl and crows.
Ikebukuro is home to many, many crows.
Crows that sit on the railing of my balcony and scowl at me.
Crows that know my secrets.
Crows that smugly look away and defecate onto my balcony; into my running shoes.
I leave home at about 0650. I don’t need to be at work until 0830 and the commute is only 45 minutes all told door to door, a very reasonable commute by Tokyo standards, but I heartily despise being rushed.
Frankly speaking, I really enjoy taking my motherfucking sweet ass time.
I like to stroll to the train station. The walk is only 7 minutes when one is stepping it out, but in the morning I make that 15 minutes. This pimp likes to smell the roses. He enjoys looking up at the blue sky and the clouds. He inspects the spring foliage and he listens to the birds chirping their spring song. He stops at the little park down the street and watches while 15 police have trouble arresting one insane drunk covered in what looks a lot like blood. This pimp takes it all in, and then he buys a cappuccino.
The thing about this stroll to Ikebukuro station isn’t the cosmopolitan sites or the juxtaposition of man and nature, but rather it’s the fact that during this entire 15 minutes I don’t hear a lick of the Japanese language.
Mandarin, Cantonese, Taiwanese, Hakka and then the smattering of Korean, Russian and Urdu. Then, finally, I might here a couple drunken, filthy Kiwi’s talking about Rugby. My point?
I am an American, living in Japan, living in Tokyo, living in Chinatown. And I think this is utterly absurd and totally fitting.
If you ask someone that “knows” Tokyo where Chinatown is, inevitably whomever you asked will most likely say “Well, in Yokohama.” In a sense this is correct, but in another sense it’s bullshit.
The fact is, Toshima Ku, the district in which Ikebukuro is located has the highest percentage of Chinese immigrants found anywhere in Japan and just about all of them live next door to me.
The West Exit at Ikebukuro station, the second busiest station in Tokyo, has since the 1980′s gradually changed from a half assed “center for the arts” into a hub for university parties, Ramon shops, fuzoku (prostitution) and the Chinese. Chinese restaurants, groceries, second-hand shops and particularly Chinese people are absolutely everywhere. This is WHY there are SO many Ramon shops. It’s also why the Toshima Ku government has invested so much money in trying to beautifie the West exit. It’s also why there are so many female police officers at work in Ikebukuro; when the cops raid a burlesque house, female officers are needed for, well, a variety of activities.
Despite living 5 minutes from a notorious and bustling red light district, my own block is oddly peaceful. Just across the street is Ikebukuro Elementary school with its chimes and morning music blasting for all to hear, and next door to that is a Christian Church and kindergarten. The street, and ONLY this street, has rows of big, green trees that are full and lush and hang deeply over the main thoroughfare and side walks. Cafes are everywhere; out door tables all full (mostly with Chinese) and kids can be seen playing and horsing around as kids do while a tricked out SUV full of gangsters glides by. It’s just a nutting part of the city and I love it.
The point today is this my friends: Yokohama can blow me. The real Chinatown in Tokyo is located right outside my front door.
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