Ghost of another place and time
Sometimes at this season, when the atmosphere’s poised in just the right way, it’s everything I can do to convince myself I’m not actually in Tokyo. At the onset of a certain heaviness to the humidity, when some combination of grey skies and cratering pressure slides into place, the taste of the air so thoroughly evokes Chuo-ku at the beginning of tsuyu that I have to shake my head a few times to ground myself back in New York.
Not just New York, but the New York of 2007. Curiously enough, the Tokyo I always feel transported to at moments like these is the city I arrived in back in the late spring of 2001 – those first few months of the city before the window of novelty closed, during which I absorbed the physical grain and tooth and gauge of the place every bit as much as its social differences. When I first got to town, I could easily sit at my desk and gaze out onto the flowing grey Sumida-gawa for an hour, immerse myself completely in details like the texture of our company’s letterhead, or the design on the chilled cans of Grapefruit Chu-Hi someone’d bring in on a Friday evening.
And the rain, the endless rain. The rain through the windows of the dozen shabbily ceiling-fan’d Hiro-o apartments Mariko the admin assistant gamely showed me, aerosolized in the air of the buses and the Hibiya-sen. The rain falling outside the chromeyellow-and-concrete Yoyogi-koen “designer’s mansion” I couldn’t afford. The rain sheeting off the chalky black folds of the Muji slicker I panicbought in Ebisu Atré. The rain darkening the wooden balcony decks of the ludicrous Kamiyacho duplex I finally wound up in, hammering against the break room plateglass, sluicing through the gutters of Tsukiji: all this folded up in a condition of the air and light, always there and forever out of reach.