Tokyo Stories from Curious Outsiders

002 : Jean Snow in Dogenzaka, Shibuya-ku
Born 1973 in Canada, Jean Snow currently works as a writer. He came to Japan on a spouse visa. Why Japan? ‘Cause he loves it so. He digs the following Tokyo bits: design, the cafés, the myriad neighborhoods with so many different things to offer. The fact that it’s like having several cities crammed into one. The last thing Jean Snow ate was a Muji muffin. For more info on Jean Snow you should send an email or visit his blog.

image: xeeliz

“Flanked on either side by adult manga shops and the like, the smell of yakitori in the air.”

I was on a quest for a recently opened spot I’d seen featured somewhere. Despite my map—I was still new to the city—I kept walking down the wrong streets. In Shibuya, a new bar or club hidden down a side street or in some dingy base­ment was to be expected, so I was pretty gung-ho [1] about turning into every tiny alleyway I encountered. As I walked down one such street, flanked on either side by adult manga shops and the like, the smell of barbecued yakitori in the air, there they stood. Two girls in sailor suits [2], like the kind worn by junior high or high school students, playing badminton. Close to them was an old man, belly protrud­ing from a stained white shirt. He glanced at me. The girls were laugh­ing and enjoy­ing themselves, as if playing badminton in a dirty alley in the middle of Shibuya was the most obvious—and of course innocent—thing to be doing.

referenced works

  1. "Gung-ho is a phrase borrowed from the Chinese language, frequently used in Chinese as an adjective meaning enthusiastic." (Wikipedia).
  2. Sailor outfits can be purchased in Japan online or at shops called Burusera (ブルセラ), a contraction of the English Bloomers and Sailor Outfits (we like these contractions). Unrelated to ブルセラ病 (Brucellosis), an infectious disease transmitted from animals to humans, which was in development by the U.S. as a biological weapon toward the end of World War Two. With muscular pain, weakness and depression among its symptoms, Brucellosis would make it very difficult to play badminton.

location information

  • Name: Dogenzaka
  • Time of story: afternoon
  • Latitude: 35.658732
  • Longitude: 139.698873
  • Map: Google Maps


  1. Mark McBennett [1] in Ireland thinks: I write this is all seriousness: I think the girls in the photo accompanying this piece are from my school. In particular, the two in the foreground, blurred though they are, look extremely familiar (no sly innuendo about my personal tastes, please!). I don’t know if the photo was taken in or near Shibuya but it is a favourite after-school hangout for students from the school (which is on the Inokashira Line). I say “my school” but I suppose I should say ex-school as I last taught there more than a year ago. I now live in Nagoya and look forward to reading more pieces here to remind me of what was for 16 years my adopted home from home.

    Keep up the good work!
  2. Thomas Newton [1] in World Enterprises, NY thinks: Cool, but… what happened next??

019She laughed at my effort and responded in English, ‘Long time, no seduction.’ — Qi Rari

018In my dreamy state, oblivious to signs and announcements I often boarded the wrong train.— Momus (aka Nick Currie)

017I was fifteen years old and it was one of those nights.— Yuko Enomoto

016That ear of corn just wanted to go home— Guttersnipe Das

015With his painstakingly coiffured mane blowing in the wind— Digits Wolfowitz

014Her voice, even across languages, betraying her worry.— Olly Denton

013I saw them drawing bamboo sticks from a silver rectangular box.— Daphné Haour

012A simulacrum of someone else's home, equal parts comfort and loss.— Adam Greenfield

011Jumbled Escheresque insanity where geo­graphy in any traditional sense ceases to exist.— Joseph Badtke-Berkow

010I could hardly make out anything apart from his glowing eyes...— Uleshka

009Shibuya was like a stroke.— Alice.d

008I cried for a while and wiped the dead bracken off my karate pants.— David Cady

007Both my tie and my disposition hang limp as I calculate the remaining distance to the station.— Chris Tobber

006I once read about a Chinese maiden whose feet were unbound by a cruel man …— Claire Tanaka

005The Bad Girl strutted off and I was left with a ham egg pie.— Guttersnipe Das

004I arrived expecting an irritated Japanese person to step out of the crowd and identify himself as Hideki.— Ashley Rawlings

003The woman at the ticket window seemed surprised to see another human being. I was the only visitor.— Andrew Douglas

002Flanked on either side by adult manga shops and the like, the smell of yakitori in the air.— Jean Snow

001For two weeks the day began with this morning walk, our shared routine.— Joseph Squier


Art Space Tokyo

Interested in sponsoring Hitotoki? Contact us at sponsors@hitotoki.

Write for Us!

We’re looking for short narratives describing pivotal moments of elation, confusion, absurdity, love or grief — or anything in between — inseparably tied to a specific place in Tokyo or New York.

submission form


Subscribe to our RSS Feed

Or receive updates by email