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March 10, 2021

I decided this morning to go down the river, toward the sumo stadium, to attend a memorial for the Tokyo wartime firebombing of March 9-10, 1945. The ceremony is one among several and, like the others, is all but ignored by national media. It takes place at the Yokoamicho Memorial Hall, which is connected to…

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Music from the Next Room

Takashi Yoshida 03.24.1944 – 12.24.2020  The soundtrack for this dream is Takashi Yoshida playing a CD through the speakers outside his record store in Asakusa, a shower of song tumbling onto the pavement: the harp of Dorothy Ashby, vibraphone of Milt Jackson, piano by Earl Hines, Carlos Lyra lilting the bossa nova…. It is refreshing…

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Some Girls

I ran into an acquaintance in Asakusa the other Sunday, on the corner of Senzoku-dori at the back of the big temple, a young woman I met years ago at a party in a local antique shop. I occasionally see her in the neighbourhood. Miki is dressed as always, in a kimono, white tabi toe…

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Feeding Nine

Across the river in Higashi Mukojima, formerly the red-light district of Tamanoi, where the crooked laneways wind around triangular and odd-shaped residential and light-industrial blocks to deposit you where you never expect, maybe back where you started, there is near the Tobu railway underpass at Taisho-dori a butcher who sells among other things horsemeat and,…

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The Life Recycle

Old machines and old clothes pause here for a second chance, everything has value to somebody, even small, everything its aura, as if you’re stepping into people’s houses, seeing all their stuff, seeing these outdated products, like meeting a distant classmate, gee how time flies, warm flush of recognition then maybe a little embarrassment. Relics.…

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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, in the backstreets you hear yourself breathe. The black velvet laps at buildings watching and listening, pools soft edged under mercury light. Walk hear. How can it be, better not ask, this feeling of hope and freedom, a timber yard, liquor store, small factories fronting people’s houses,…

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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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