Higashi Shirahige park, upriver from Asakusa near the fork of the Sumida and Arakawa. A sprawling Showa-era housing estate that doubles as an evacuation zone and tidal barrier. On the asphalt playground a gaggle of schoolgirls is rehearsing some kind of cheerleading routine with flags. A picnic table and Honda Cub with a trailer stand incongruously in the centre. A few merrymakers are drinking and chatting. The man who seems to be running the party notices you as he is packing up.

shirahige coming over

What’s that? You like my bike? Oh, the trailer is really for transporting tatami mats but I carried food and drink for my stall at the flea market this morning. You can’t ride this on the roads, I come down the riverbank.
My name is Kouya Sakai, I am 73. Hey do you have Facebook. Look at this page, I put up all the illuminations for the Nebuta Sakura festival here, and you know, I also put up 450 carp streamers for the Koi Nobori festival, that’s April 25 to May 20. See this page? Yes that’s my wife. Hey come over here.

Hi, my name is Natsue, pleased to meet you. I’m from Shimane. You should check out the tunnel of sakura trees here, just walk up the park further between blocks 6 and 7. See you later. And before you go, take some oranges. We got them from the market.

She gives you a bag of oranges and small mandarins. They are wrinkled and mottled brown, like real fruit, not what you find in the supermarket. At home, they taste very sweet.

shirahige wife
shirahige fb closeup
shirahige standing w phone