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An outing from Minato to Ginza / 4 April 2011

photo of Tokyo streets

A busy street in Tsukiji, district of Tokyo. Photo © Gini

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Minato. Gateway to the sea.
Gateway? Is this your first
port of call? Sumida
feeds you, ripples and
scurries to greet you
and you nudge back,
pushing and teasing.
Gateway? Can she keep
you out? When you surge
with your burdens of
wreckage and mud, will
Minato survive? Will the
shrine on the corner
protect her?

Today I'm out on my own, it's brilliant sunshine and I'm going from Minato, where SP lives by the Sumida river, into Ginza. Road works outside the flat require two police persons to ensure safety and even though there is no traffic in sight (it's a very quiet road), I am solemnly greeted with a bow and the non-existent traffic halted to allow me to cross.

I pass my little landmarks: the shrine, the pots of pansies and orchids, the spider plants, and the playground and arrive at the lift to take me down to Hatchobori station. I am welcomed at the information booth; my ticket is secured, the platform lift unpacked and the portable ramp fetched. I wait patiently and they find this reassuring. The lift is operated by the staff and all is carefully done by the book. I then wait at a marked spot on the platform. The train stops on target and the staff flutter and fuss while I roll on board.

At Ginza I am assisted by an impressively helpful member of staff who, at the mention of 'shopping' escorts me out of the station and walks me to within sight of the  Mitsukoshi department store. Here I roll around among Scandinavian nik-naks, cakes so perfect they look unreal, and tiny shoes that seem strangely old fashioned. Next door are the big-name, diamond jewellery sellers and a flower shop.

I had decided to roll back to Minato via Higashi-ginza and Tsukiji and at the store exit, attempt to confirm my direction of travel. Ginza, Higashi-Ginza and Tsukiji run imperceptibly into each other along a main highway.

Unfortunately none of the locals have heard of Minato; mention of Tsukiji however, brings eager confirmation that I am indeed going in the right direction. The road is a busy one, three or four lanes in each direction, but packed on each side with a fascinating selection of little shops. Dropped curbs here are as variable as in England, and uneven slopes cause the unfamiliar powerchair to career out of control. I need to keep my eyes open and be a little careful.

This route is now familiar and I relax and enjoy the roll, browsing some of the little shops along the way. Many are inaccessible: steps or impossibly narrow entrances keep me out. My path curves left at the river and I follow the walkway home.

Pausing by the river I reflect on the outing. I have not needed to say "excuse me" once. I have not been made to feel like a leper by folk backing away from me in alarm. No-one has looked dismayed at my mere presence or intimated that I am taking up too much space. I  have felt accepted in a way I hardly ever do on the streets of England.

I have felt like one bird in a flock of starlings: trusted to move carefully by those around me; to hold the complex pattern and respect my neighbour. Strange as it seems, I actually felt a sense of belonging.