Tokyo Stories from Curious Outsiders

006 : Claire Tanaka at Shibuya Crossing, Shibuya-ku
Born 1976 in Canada, Claire Tanaka currently works as a regional government wage slave. She came to Japan on a humanities visa. Why Japan? Why not? She digs the following Tokyo bits: the sense of possibility, that even people’s parents are cool, Watari-um in Aoyama, the Yamanote line and Shimokitazawa. She, however, is a touch miffed by people bumping into her on the street and saying "excuse me" instead of "sumimasen," no one knowing where Tokushima is, and touts. For more info on Claire Tanaka you should send an email or visit her homepage.

image: yhassi

“I once read about a Chinese maiden whose feet were unbound by a cruel man …”

Years ago, I went out on a date with a guy who had a job “erasing Morning Musume’s [1] pimples” at a digital editing studio in Tokyo [2]. He took me to all his favorite places around the back streets of Harajuku [3], Aoyama and Shibuya—we walked and walked. He told me how much he admired Okamoto Taro [4]. He took me to his friend’s cafe. I really felt cool, seeing Tokyo at the side of this hip Japan­ese dude. When I was getting dressed for this date though, for some reason I had decided to wear my green rubber flip-flops. It was a hot summer night, and I wanted to show how casual and free I was. When we met, he asked me if my feet were going to be OK, and I said, “Sure!” Well, by midnight, we’d been walking for about four hours and my feet were starting to hurt. We were standing right near the Starbucks at the Shibuya scramble [5], and suddenly I just couldn’t walk anymore. I sent him to go buy some Band-Aids for me.

I stood on top of my sandal straps and waited. I couldn’t move. It was the middle of the night and my feet throbbed with pain. I remembered a story I had read about a Chinese maiden whose feet were unbound [6] by a cruel man who left her at the side of the road, unable to walk, at the complete mercy of passers-by. I thought about that woman with her feet unwrapped, uncovered, waiting for a dash­ing stranger to come and bandage them in strips of cloth he ripped from his own shirt. I waited, thinking, surely a little Band-­Aid isn’t that hard to find. Thinking, what if he never comes back? How will I get home? Which would be worse—walking with chafed feet in flip-flops, or walking through Shibuya with no shoes at all?

referenced works

  1. Perennially popular all-girl pop juggernaut with ever-changing lineup.
  2. Capital city of Japan.
  3. Hip, centrally located youth fashonista central. Loved and exploited by Gwen Stafani. Wikipedia on Harajuku.
  4. Wikipedia on Okamoto Taro. Taro Okamoto museum of art.
  5. Quite possibly the most photographed, well known point in Tokyo. Or at least the busiest.
  6. Foot binding is some nasty stuff. Not recommended.

location information

  • Name: Shibuya Crossing
  • Address: Shibuya-ku Shibuya 2-15-1
  • Time of story: late night
  • Latitude: 35.659364
  • Longitude: 139.700727
  • 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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