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Tokyo on the move


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“You’ve been living here for so long now. Who do you trust your life to in Tokyo? Who would you call if you were in trouble?”
“You, sweetie.”
“Me?”
“Of course. Is that a surprise?”

Six months ago I wheeled my suitcase and put down my backpacks in this cold and funnily-scented room. This was going to be my apartment for the upcoming three months, I thought. Fortunately I get to live in this studio for 3 more months. I had only a wardrobe filled with my clothes and a table covered with my gadgets. I tried to decorate this room as much as I could, but in the back of my head I knew I had to tear it down after three months. I was even hesitant to unpack my suitcase. After the landlord permitted me to stay, I put up a big piece of art, Monet’s Water lilies, handmade by the kids. My life needed more colors. The artwork was smiling back at me, so I kept it. To remind myself how blessed I am in this jungle. And I will take it with me to my next apartment. This room felt so small when I opened the door for the first time, and now I feel like I can’t breathe. This room has never ceased its size, it is my life that has expanded. This was an emergency room after my breakup, and it became more than that. This was my home during this crazy time. I’m not ready to move out Omori, our neighborhood of 3 years. I’m moving away. From him. From our past. And, I guess it is a part of the mourning process.

“I have to move out end of the month?”
“What? I thought you liked it here?”
“I do, but my contract is ending, so I’m looking for a new place.”
“But, we were just so close. To each other.”

I’ve heard all the stories about how small the places are in Tokyo. I mentally prepared myself before viewing the furnished studios, and still some of them were shocking me to the core. They were the size of my bedroom in Amsterdam, yet it has everything that a person need. The 16m2 place had a stove and a sink (kitchen), shower and bathtub in a little cabin (bathroom) and a queen-sized bed and a balcony where they cramped in a washing machine. 800 euros. Surely, it was next to the train station and in one of the loveliest neighborhood, but I couldn’t make myself sign those papers. The lady from the real estate wasn’t friendly either, maybe that’s why. I was aiming to find an apartment with at least a window that I could open. Here in this shoe box I couldn’t even see where the windows were. I thought that I was doomed to sleep in a shared house for a while before moving into an apartment. And, again and again, the luck fell right in my lap and I got to view a small cozy apartment in an old house next to a little river surrounded by trees that I get to see through 5 windows which I could open! The fat prize? I have a private balcony where the chairs are longing to be seated. This was going to be my pick. I knew it once we’d opened the door. It was more expensive than I had estimated, yet I signed the contract, because I knew I wouldn’t find a better one for the same price. So, from now on it is going to be less bottles of Coke, cut down my cups of take away coffee and no more boxes of doughnuts. Apparently the finding was the easy part, the whole hassle with deregistration and registration of my addresses is the hardest part.

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To release some of my anger I went into the arcade where I’d spent more than 2 hours banging on the machines that gave me so much pleasure. My friend took me to a piano machine where you had to press the right keys that were appearing on the screen. The player doesn’t need to know how to play the piano, having a sense of rhythm is simply enough. My eye-hand coordination isn’t as it used to be, yet hearing the metronome ticking louder than the blasting music was hypnotizing . As if I heard my teacher’s clapping and yelling when I was younger. It forced me to focus even more and banging even harder. My arms are still sore from that. My friend and I are both musicians, and gosh we had so much fun. The release of satisfaction overwhelmed me not realizing how many coins I’d put in that machine on one night. The sounds of all those machines are deafening, piercing through your ear drums and the silence is giving your system a brain freeze once the sliding doors open in front of you. I can totally understand why businessmen and students are spending their well-earned evening and nights behind those arcades to escape from the reality for a couple of hours before zombying back into the society. The amount of men in suits are quite frightening though. They come straight from work to a machine that swallows your money in return for a 5 minutes pleasure. Working in the Japanese capital and being part of this society is a huge price you have to pay. That much, that I lost my phone. Although I don’t know whether I lost it when I was playing it, or that I was busy finding back my hearing and putting it somewhere unnoticed. Or just simply, it got stolen.

“Can you please help me moving?”
“Of course, hon.”
“I put you as my emergency contact. Together with my brother.”
“As always.”

As I am packing everything feels so heavy. It is overwhelming and demotivating. My friends warned me not to have the attitude of “Ah, I’m just staying here for a couple of months” in Tokyo. How can I ever settle down and working myself up to a next challenge if I keep on moving? This is the first time in my life that I’m committed to a place with the prospect of staying more than a year. The relationship with this guy has put my life on hold. I don’t blame him, but the fact that I choose my own career and pleasure is a huge step in life. It has taken me long enough to get here, so I am going to embrace all the ugliness and change it into positivity. I like changes, challenges, but saying goodbye has always been my weakness. I went for an evening walk last night and I stumbled upon unfamiliar places. It has been always the last moments where I truly enjoy the beauty of the familiarity. I’ve been living in this neighborhood back and forth for almost a year now. The ease of emotionally and physically attach to something, someone, is my fortune, but at the same it backfires me completely. Especially when it goes unanswered. The incompleteness can be so killing. Waiting, pending, that feeling is indescribably brutal when you are on the receiving end. And the fact that everything related to paperwork goes slowly is mind-numbing . How come Tokyo, a fast-paced city, shuts down in front of you when you need him the most? No one can speed up the process, it’s just merely waiting. Until luck is falling back into your lap. I definitely should not complain since luck has been smiling at me from the beginning. I am so looking forward to settle in my new place. In a buzzing city like Tokyo, I’m fortunate to find a place that is in a green, quiet neighborhood where the house is situated near a park and river. After spending 6 months in an emergency room that has no windows, everything is better.

Everyone is invited to come over, stay over, and have a delightful cold beer with me under the Japanese sky. On one condition: Bring me doughnuts, stroopwafels and cheesecake. Boxes full, please.


Written by Felicia Mok

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