My interest in Japan owes much to one of my favourite authors, Haruki Murakami.
Whilst in Tokyo, I had hoped to identify some of the locations he describes. I thought I might perhaps even gain a glimpse into the psyche of the Japanese men who form the bulk of his protagonists: forgettable loners, quietly plodding through life and barely leaving an imprint. It had seemed a strange universal character to choose, but after only a few days in the city I could understand why they provided him with such rich potential. It’s a place dedicated to solo living: the tiny apartments, the individual seats at ramen bars, the anonymity of the packed subway car. Like no other city I had visited, Tokyo invited people to disappear, even when living a life surrounded by other human beings.
Day three was dedicated to seeking out the weird and wonderful world of Japanese collectables.
I’d been pointed in the right direction by my friend Josy, she again of the Japanese intel, and headed towards Nakano Broadway. I had been promised “old movie posters, models, panty vending machines, godzilla statues etc” – basically everything I could possibly want from four days in Tokyo, or indeed any holiday destination. Primarily I was after the vending machines full of pants, if only to confirm that such a thing actually existed, but I figured I might as well take a gander at the other stuff too.
Nakano is an old-style shopping mall: countless outlets, some barely bigger than a cupboard, are crammed into the centre, lining both sides of the maze-like corridors with nary a window in sight. Five floors are filled with incredible amounts of kitsch, collectables, badges, dolls, trinkets, retro goodies, anime and manga (I still don’t know the difference), vintage toys, clothes, comics, video games, and items for which I don’t even have a name. I explored the whole place, rounding every corner thinking “this surely must be it, there can’t be anything else left to collect”, only to be proven categorically incorrect. If you ever thought it wasn’t possible to dedicate an entire shop purely to anime posters, or plastic dinosaurs, or muscle-bound statues of WWF members, then you would be very wrong.
The deal was that we would go to Japan together, at a later date. It was a country we both longed to visit and therefore deserved to be taken on its own merits without any other distractions.
But the cheapest flight from Vladivostok to Melbourne went via Tokyo, so Peter reasoned it would be simply churlish not to extend the stopover from two hours to two nights.
And if he was getting two nights in the city then damnit so was I. Although flight prices being what they are . . . two became four. And so I found myself bound for Tokyo with five days to play with and strict instructions not to leave the city limits.