Tokyo Stories from Curious Outsiders

023 : Mark Murkes on a Payphone in Shibuya station, Shibuya-ku
Born 1971 in the Netherlands, Mark Murkes currently works as a media advisor He came to Japan on a tourist visa. Why Japan? Tokyo brings out the brightest and darkest traits of every human being. He digs the following Tokyo bits: the structure of the Kus, the international vibe with an oriental twist, the polite behavior, Akihabara and the efficiency of the society. He, however, is a touch miffed by always being an outsider, rush hour, small spaces, the word Gaijin and the subway stopping at midnight. For more info on Mark Murkes you should send an email or visit murkes.com.

image: E. Nagase

“Yeah … I’m sorry too. Merry Christmas.

“Hi, it’s me. How are you?”

“I’m okay … How is Tokyo? Where are you calling from?”

“It’s allright … the same as always. I’m at a public phone at some subway station right now. I miss you.”

“Why are you calling? It’s still morning here.”

“I just … I don’t know. Like I said, I miss you.”

“Yeah … well … What do you want me to say?”

“I was hoping you would miss me too. I guess that is what I want to hear from you.”

“Of course I miss you, but not in the same way as I used to. Things have changed between us, you know that.”

“I know … but still …”

“You have to go your own way, as well as I have to. I cannot help you with this. You have to do this by yourself.”

“I’m sorry. I cannot let go this easily after all these years. I am still wondering how you do it.”

“For me, it’s different. But I know this is the right thing to do. I’m sorry.”

“Yeah. … I’m sorry too. Merry Christmas.”

“Merry Christmas. I hope you will find happiness.”

“You too. Bye …”

“Bye. Take care of yourself, will you?”

“Yeah … Thanks, I guess.”


And I walk back to the neon lights of Shibuya, where the people are reveling in their Christmas parties[1], wondering whether there is any home to return to.

referenced works

  1. From mid-December to mid-January Japanese people find three reasons to drink uninhibitedly: 1) 忘年会 or "year end party," 2) Christmas parties, usually organized by lonely, single people who are trying to stave off the intense sadness brought on by being alone in Japan on the 25th of December, and 3) 新年会 or "new year parties." 忘年会 and 新年会 parties are often held in izakayas, and very often, those izakayas are located in Shibuya.

location information

  • Name: Payphone in Shibuya station
  • Address: 東京都渋谷区道玄坂1丁目
  • Time of story: late night
  • Latitude: 35.65826
  • Longitude: 139.70171
  • 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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