Shock (urban renewal), Outrage (foreign prejudice) and glitter boots... / 15 September 2013
An easy day, revisiting old haunts and tracing my way back along the banks of the river. It sounds easy, but in the constant renewal that is Tokyo, certain 'landmark' buildings along my remembered route are now flat ground awaiting redevelopment. I was aware of this, but being here, seeing the sudden open spaces, the wounds in the bare earth, actually feels rather shocking.
A lot of new roadworks mean the plentiful traffic controllers are frequently moving cones to widen my pathway through.
The weather is glorious, tourist barges are out again in full force and the streets are busy with visitors. The guide books declare October to be the absolute best time to come here and I just might believe it as this rainy September season draws to an end.
Sumida's ribbon garden is planted with autumn colours, the regimental African Marigolds are joined by elegant sprawls of something that looks like orange cosmos - if such a plant exists - canna and giant sunflowers. Everything grows, we have had rain and now this pleasant warmth and there are six uniformed gardeners busy pulling up weeds.
Today Sumida is Goth-dark and deep;
the sun shines in a clear blue sky,
but Sumida is teenage choppy
with restless energy, ink reflecting
nothing of the boundless blue
above her. Without reflection,
without memory, she is lost,
vulnerable to the sea-monster
who eases his bulk into her bed
mingling his salt with her freshwater,
drawing her out into the vastness
of his ocean playground.
I roll to the end of the river walk and head for Higashi-Ginza to take photographs of the new Kabuki theatre. I'm hoping that there will not be the same crowds there today as when I attended a performance.
On the way there are new shops, old shops that have shrunk or grown, and shops that are just as I remembered; like the one selling chopsticks, porcelain and lacquered wooden bowls.
There is also a rash of visitors with a non-Japanese attitude to wheelborne people; they wave their arms in agitation, guard each other protectively and I can almost hear them thinking the regulation: 'watch out, you'll get mown down'.
Some nearby Japanese catch my eye and exchange amused looks; I'm surprised and pleased.
I once saw a young Japanese girl, clothed in French/American brands, adopting that 'whatever' body slouch so prevalent in western youth and started to realise how much Japanese people might loose by neglecting to find their own modern solutions and adopting western attitudes wholesale.
The temperature is a delicious 28C, but this is autumn and the young fashionistas are dressed accordingly. Little ankle boots are this seasons fashion, with thick tights or leggings and wooly hats. Long lace-up Wellingtons abound. We are not quite out of the rainy season so you can also buy a short rain jacket with matching waterproof shorts. Shop windows display winter coats and chunky knits in fabulous autumn-leaf colours, and lots of glitter; chunky gold jewellery and gold sequinned boots and shoes.
I pop into a small gallery and see prints and drawings that make me think that I too could charge 500,000 ¥ for my work. I briefly consider the possibility of owning gold glitter boots...
Outrage is not too strong
not too wild to claim the
fear from my mind as I face
the familiar Western
into the heart of Tokyo
by gaijin. And I resolve
to ring-fence space in my mind
somewhere to quarantine
the 'gaijin to diversity',
the beings who carry
prejudice like the plague,
self and my sanity.