Taito Station   Leave a comment

I’m getting somewhat settled.

I sometimes try to think about the sense of Japan I had when I wasn’t here, the way I would imagine the trees and people would look, the things I would see and hear, but so far, the city I’m staying in feels like any other city I’ve ever been in.

I’m in bed for most of the day, mostly out of boredom, and sometimes I get lost in thought, floating through memories of past things. I have a brief Skpe conversation with my family back home, and then I decide to take a walk.

I’ve been trying to find a video arcade for the last few days, and today is the day to go. Its chilly and overcast, but I wear dark glasses. I don’t mind saying sumimasen all day long, but today, I want to hide my eyes. I want my thoughts to be hidden from the world behind my dark lenses.

I’m strolling quietly in a pair of skinny jeans and a biker vest that fits me perfectly. With my glasses and headphones, I feel futuristic. I know I stand out, but it doesn’t excite me. I wonder what the old Japanese man in his bicycle shop thinks of me. What does the lady in the car passing by think? Who knows. All I know is that the sounds of the city are gone, drowned out by the pounding of music in my ears.

I walk near my new hang out street, a small brightly lit street filled with cool stores, cheap bars and thrift shops. I take a left down a street I haven’t walked on before, and I find a tidy collection of small clubs and more bars. I remind myself that I have to return.

During the day the city rolls along like a quiet beast grazing in a large field. Everything happens as it is supposed to: Cars drive, people walk, lights blink. As I exit the alley, I notice a large ZaZa City sign, and I know where I am. ZaZa City is a large mall near the station. I shared a meal with the two Aussies there a few days prior.

I cross the street, patiently waiting for the light to change, and then I see it. Its called Taito Station, and I can hear that mish-mash of arcade noises that I used to love as a teenager. I go inside, and chuckle. Two small, very cute teddy-bear robot thingies are walking about on the floor. They aren’t moving in any particular direction, but they have sensors to help guide them as they “walk” around. They main an irregular but circular path near the entrance. One word:  adorable.

The arcade is a good size, and I see a small crowd of who I think are college or high school students. I take a street at a street fighter 4 machine. For 100 yen (one token), I play until the final stage, and surprise myself at how excited the game makes me feel. My legs are warm with anticipation and I feel the blood rushing through my arms and legs. I haven’t played a video game in a long time. I didn’t realize how good it felt.

After trying to beat the final guy a few times, I get a challenge from a young Japanese guy. He destroys me, and I go to play Dance Dance revolution. As I look on the machine, I smile a half-smile of pleasure and pain.

The last time I played DDR was in Barcelona, two years prior. Sitting behind me at the time was my girlfriend. I can still hear her voice. “wow, you are good!” she had said. At the time, she was holding my little Sony Cybershot, shooting video of me stepping on the colourful arrows that coincide with the musical beats. For a second, my heart flutters, then stops. The image fades, but I am reminded that love never goes away.

I step onto the machine and try to figure out the menu. I end up picking the easy game first, and awkwardly step to a few easy songs. Next time, I pick a harder level and have some more fun. I slip on my glasses and step in unison. At some point during my life I said I wanted to play Dance Dance Revolution in Japan. I had my moment. This time there was no one behind me, no beautiful face smiling at me and holding my camera, but I was there, stepping to the music, getting funky.

After my second game, I went to the 7-11 across the street and grabbed a small snack. The day was getting more chilly, and I decided to walk home. This city feels little like DC, but not really. DC is mixed. Even minorities are a majority in DC. Here, things are more homogeneous. People look similar, and dress similarly. Everything feels very quiet. I slip my ear phones on, toss my wrapper into the garbage, and start the slow walk home.

At the underpass, I run into Jeff, a guy from Boston who lives here. He is a large strapping fellow, with a very innocent face. We chit-chat briefly. There isn’t much going on tonight, he tells me. I nod and say I’ll probably see him later. My stomach feels a little off–I don’t think I ate much for the day–and I need some food. In a few minutes I’m back to my apartment. I open the door and I’m greeted by a gust of cold air. I close the door, and temporarily, everything goes dark.

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