Tokyo Stories from Curious Outsiders

007 : Chris Tobber in and around Higashi-Matsubara, Shibuya-ku
Born 1981 in Canadiana, Chris Tobber currently works as a Eikaiwa teacher. He came to Japan on a visa in good standing. Why Japan? His friend was very persuasive. He digs the following Tokyo bits: the girls, museums, Shimokitazawa, and Matsuya. He, however, is a touch miffed by Summer, Winter, and Roppongi. For more info on Chris Tobber you should send an email.

image: jeshii

“Both my tie and my disposition hang limp as I calculate the remaining distance to the station.”

Still buzzing with a hangover, I pour out of my tiny apartment into the heat and humidity, the glaring sun set in an impossibly pewter sky. Within moments, sweat creeps across my brow. I pat my face and neck with my “sweater­chief” wishing that using fans weren’t so emascul­ating. [1]

An orchestra of cicadas [2] accompanies me as I scurry along narrow, winding streets toward the train. 150 yen buys me only temporary comfort, and as I gulp down my drink I swear to never again curse the winter. I pass mice, obasan hobbling along in their yukata, salary­men with their regulation black jackets slung over their shoulders and gaiijin dressed in various shades of sweat-stained khaki.

I find a spot of shade and with moist fingers fish another Mild Seven [3] from a crumpled pack. The lighter, one of many I’ve pocketed from various bars in Shimo­kitazawa, is almost out of fuel. Both my tie and my disposition hang limp as I try to calculate the remaining distance to the station. Blasts of incomprehen­sible music followed by short gusts of cool air issue from the pachinko parlor [4] across the street, and I’d almost rather face a day beyond those doors than resume my journey.

With a sigh, a curse and a wheeze, I resume my walk. The station looms like a mirage over the next hill. Sunspots cloud the edges of my vision as I stumble up the steps and line up to buy a ticket behind a legion of school kids, none of whom appear to be sweaty. On the platform, sweat trickles down the small of my back while I pretend not to watch a girl in ludicrous­ly high heels and a miniskirt stalk gracefully by. The crowd that has material­ized around me makes me worry about how I might smell. Endless express trains speed past before one finally rolls to a stop and I fairly leap into the sanctuary of cold, stale air. Ah yes, just another summer day in Tokyo.

referenced works

  1. War fans, the more masculine version of the paper, advertising clad fans often given out by street hooligans near subway exits.
  2. The Japanese 70s kissarock group Happy End references the cicada in their song "Natsu nan desu" ("It's Summer") as one of the distinct signs of it being, indeed, summer.
  3. The Japanese Marlboro.
  4. Loud, garish centers of chain smoking old men and women watching small metal balls fall down a mini-sized pinball machine for hours on end.

location information

  • Name: Higashi-Matsubara
  • Address: N/A
  • Time of story: afternoon
  • Latitude: 35.650601
  • Longitude: 139.713135
  • Map: Google Maps


  1. Ashley Rawlings [1] in England thinks: Ah yes, the Japanese summer.

    All you can do to stave off the rivers of sweat is to stick to the shady side of the street where possible, and under NO circumstances rush. I would rather be an hour late and only mildly clammy than on time looking like the typical summer gaijin swamp-beast.

    Still, in China it can be useful. A persistent market trader lost his grip on my arm once because it was too sweaty.

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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