Tokyo Stories from Curious Outsiders

001 : Joseph Squier a block from the Nihon University entrance in Ekoda, Nerima-ku
Born in the 20th Century in the U.S., Joseph Squier currently works as a professor/artist. He came to Japan on a tourist visa. Why Japan? Curiosity. He digs the following Tokyo bits: the food, the simultaneously traditional and hypermodern culture, the taxis, and riding the subway. For more info on Joseph Squier you should send an email or visit Ninth Letter.

image: J. Squier

“For two weeks the day began with this morning walk, our shared routine.”

It is early November, our first morning in Tokyo. We are freshly arrived from a midwestern college town in the United States. My traveling companion is a friend and colleague, Nan. We’ve been invited to the Ekoda campus of Nihon Univers­ity to give a presentation on electronic art and a workshop on web publish­ing. The picture was taken about a block from the entrance to the campus.

It’s a pretty nondescript picture, I know. But it sits on my desk, propped against the wall, with a small collection of half a dozen pictures all taken within a two-block area near the univers­ity. All of them feature street scenes of traffic, signs and small shops, always with Nan a few feet ahead in the distance. This is the Tokyo that I remember.

I visited and photographed the Ginza [1] and the Imperial Palace and lots of other areas in Tokyo that you might think would be more memor­able. But those memories have become more vague with time. Whenever I look at this stack of ordinary pictures, though, I can still feel the slight chill in the Novem­ber air. I hear the traffic—that taxi passing by—and remember the sounds of delivery trucks being unloaded.

Somehow this small stash of mundane images has become a collective portrait of sorts. Something in these pictures is that thing I brought home with me.

And it seems fitting that Nan figures promin­ently in the pictures as well. For two weeks, the day began with this morning walk, our shared routine. I suppose that the pictures also serve as a marker for when I began to realize that I’d found a friend for life. You can’t travel halfway around the world without getting to know your companion pretty well. [2] It was during our time in Tokyo that Nan and I eased into a deep mutual comfort with each other. A door opened in our friend­ship sometime during those days in early Novem­ber. And I wonder if this was what I was trying to capture as we stood on the curb together, just waiting to cross the street as a green and white taxi glided by. 

referenced works

  1. It seems that there was a shift in the English syntax used to describe this place, some time before your humble editors arrived. The Ginza, a district much like New York's Fifth Avenue, simply became Ginza, We don't know why there was a the, or why it disappeared, but it tickles our eardrums everytime we hear it.
  2. Actually you can, we've done it, and let us tell you, it ain't pleasant.

location information

  • Name: block from the Nihon University entrance in Ekoda
  • Address: Nerima-ku Asahigaoka 2-42-1
  • Time of story: early morning
  • Latitude: 35.737787
  • Longitude: 139.673867
  • Map: Google Maps


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


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