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Daydream Believers

K tells me as we cross the Azuma Bridge over the Sumida River on a summer morning in August last year, how she followed her boyfriend from Saigon, and he dropped her shortly afterward. She laughs. Below the scarlet bridge, sightseeing ferries ply the blue-brown waters to and from Tokyo Bay. She was shattered at…

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black honjo

Walk here at night, rose from the ashes cat-like, pad fragrant backstreets hear yourself breathe. The black velvet laps at buildings watching, as if in water pools soft edged in the mercury lights, they have eyes. Walk hear. How it can be better not ask, unlikely feeling of freedom, a timber yard, liquor store, small…

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Port in a Storm

Up by the Arakawa one humid afternoon about a week after the terrible typhoon of September 9, I looked in on Mr Tanaka at his small compound of blue tarpaulin huts. We sat on boxes under a tarp among the summer weeds, at a low table of construction-site plywood scattered with utensils, a jar of…

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Thank You for a Long Time

Probably the master wouldn’t have told me even if I’d gone there more recently, closer to July 16 when it all ended. I don’t know where he is, or even if he is alive. Seventy-two-year-old Mr Shiraishi. Stubborn stoic, reticent. Hard of hearing, so he hollered. Welcome! Seven hundred yen! Thank you! His elder sister…

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Finishing Up with Rice

I bought a riceball stuffed with kombu seaweed and ate it beside the window at Iseya, the shop with the striped awning next door to the leaning metal workshop in Kyojima, near Hikifune station. The young woman pulled her mum into the picture. They do inari sushi, pockets of rice in deep-fried tofu, and a…

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Travelling Riverside Blues

Mr T is a bit tired of life in the blue-sheet shacks. He and two mates have been here for three years. Reckon I’ll give it a few more, he says. I didn’t ask where he would go. He comes from Tohoku. He says, To tell the truth, I don’t know what I’m doing from…

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Gone Things: Lost in Heisei

A few items that went irretrievably missing in the final sputter of the Heisei era, as Tokyo businesses and government lost their minds to a frightening wave of demolition, speculation and hotel erection, grasping for as many tourists as they could… Some captions link to previous Ginzaline stories Yusuke Kabuki lost his painstakingly crafted cafe,…

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Men in Books

Shigeru and Kazuhiro Yamaji are father and son who run separate used-book stores in an old commercial building owned by the family in noisy Shibuya, amid the rampant juvenile shoppers and smoke and steam billowing from yakitori bars and ramen stands. Crowds scurry around the scramble crossing. Touts for hostess bars loiter on the stained…

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Heartbreak Hotel

I slept a few times in front of these air-conditioning ducts near the top of Rambling Street in Shibuya, when the faded but somewhat majestic Hotel Kowa stood on this spot. I can still see inside our room, above the yellow elbow of the backhoe, though of course that’s my imagination and no one could…

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A Farewell to Arms

When I told Mrs Yamamoto with the short brown hair about the two old drunks who stumbled in to Seifu Massage the other day she said, It used to be a lot worse. The afternoon of the drunks, Mrs Anai was massaging my forearm, pinching the flesh through my sleeve. Face-down, looking through the donut…

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