The Big Mikan*
My first apartment in Tokyo was a shoebox designed for very tiny shoes. It was one room with a squat toilet and no bath. A streetcar ran past the apartment’s one window with a riotous clang-clang-clang from a heart-stopping 4:30 in the morning. Anyone who tells you that you can learn to ignore that kind of thing is lying.
Most of Tokyo’s streets don’t have names or numbers, so when I gave people directions, it was, “Take the narrow street between the ramen shop and the tobacco stand, turn left at the condom machine, and right at the black cat. Look for the cemetery on your left. My building is the beached whale in the middle of it.” I still don’t know why there was an apartment building in a cemetery. Back then I couldn’t speak Japanese, so I couldn’t ask. And a little mystery always adds spice to life.
Despite the lack of street names, Tokyo is laid out with some reason, if not rhyme. It’s a spider web with the Emperor’s palace in the middle. The palace is circled by eight concentric ring roads which are numbered, sanely enough, one through eight. The major roads radiating out from the center are also numbered, but with no logic or detectable pattern. There’s a route one that eventually becomes two, but nowhere near Tokyo. Nobody seems to know where route three is. The one that goes past my neighborhood is 246. There’s no 245 or 247.
This neighborhood was at one time farm land, and its streets were once deer paths and rabbit runs. Wandering around the area, one discovers dead ends and switchbacks so it’s not unusual to be looking for something and discover that you just can’t get there from here. But along the way, one can also discover traditional houses next to modern monstrosities, temples and shrines…
…or a tree growing through someone’s balcony.
I guess in the end it’s not about getting there. It’s about what you do along the way.
* For the uninitiated, a mikan is a mandarin orange.
This post was written in response to a WordPress writing challenge related to similes (OK, I didn’t use any) and metaphors (three!). Click here to go to the challenge.