Tokyo Stories from Curious Outsiders

004 : Ashley Rawlings at Nakameguro Station, Meguro-ku
Born 1981 in England, Ashley Rawlings currently works as a student, translator, writer, and photographer. He came to Japan on a student visa. Why Japan? Japanese visual culture! He digs the following Tokyo bits: clean and punctual trains (apparently coming from the UK, punctual trains are a novelty), the density, the safety, bizarre juxtapositions, and architectural gems. He, however, is a touch miffed by noise pollution, the lack of parks and public spaces, cycling on the pavement (except when he does it), and Hongo-Sanchome Station. For more info on Ashley Rawlings you should send an email or visit his personal site.

image: A. Rawlings

“I arrived expecting an irritated Japanese person to step out of the crowd and identify himself as Hideki.”

My first couple of hours in Tokyo were a disaster. Tokyo was the last stop on my three-­week first visit to Japan in 2002. Ever since I had seen “Akira” [1] as a twelve-year-old boy, my image of Tokyo was Neo-Tokyo, a cyber-Mecca of vast skyscrapers and hypnotic neon; I had been longing to come here for a whole decade.

Having taken a later shinkansen [2] from Kyoto than I had intended, I was 40 minutes late for my meeting with Hideki, a friend of a friend who had kindly agreed to let me stay at his place for a week.

Soaked with sweat as I heaved my overloaded bags through the August heat, I arrived at Nakameguro Station [3] expecting an irritated Japanese person to step out of the crowd and identify himself as Hideki. It didn’t happen. I sat on my luggage for more than an hour, waiting for him to material­ize, but the crowds just kept passing by.

I tried phoning his mobile dozens of times, but kept getting strange tones on the line. Confused about whether I had the right phone card for the right phone, I must have tried out about 30 different phones in and around the station.

Suddenly I realized that I no longer had my wallet—in my increasing exasperation I had left it on top of one of the phones in the station. I ran back only to find it gone, and neither the station staff nor the police across the road had seen it. It felt surreal to be filling out a theft report and acting out the police station role-play we had practiced in Japan­ese class earlier that year.

Despite losing 12,000 yen and all my cards, I had more money in my bag. Unable to find an internet cafe and in no mood to start looking for hotels, I decided that with my prepaid rail-pass, it was cheaper and more comfortable to take the shinkansen back to Kyoto, rejoin my friends there for a night and use their computer to check my email and figure out how to get back to Tokyo.

That evening, slumped in my seat on the shinkansen out of Tokyo, watching these long-awaited street­scapes fly by, I felt nothing but abject disappoint­ment. Having finally got here, it felt like the city had just sucked me in, chewed me up and spat me out.

It turned out that not only had Hideki given me the wrong mobile number, but he had been waiting at Meguro Station anyway.

referenced works

  1. Akira is the original old-school motorcycles and lasers and psychokinesis anime to really break through in America in the early '90s. Looking for a good introduction to Anime? Check out Japanamerica. (Yes we're friends with Roland, but it's a damn fine book!)
  2. A very fast train which has yet to kill anyone.
  3. A hip station in a very low part of the city. If you're living in Nakameguro and have to bike anywhere into town, you'll probably be plodding uphill. The cherry blossoms are great though, and there's a strangely high concentration of nice bike shops that sell things like those foam head-strap style helmets riders used to wear back when Merckx was rocking the Tour.

location information

  • Name: Nakameguro Station
  • Address: Meguro-ku Kami-Meguro 3-4-1
  • Time of story: early morning
  • Latitude: 35.644219
  • Longitude: 139.699016
  • 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


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