Tokyo Stories from Curious Outsiders

028 : Selena Hoy under the arch in HaraMachida
Born 1979 in USA, Selena Hoy currently works as a teacher, production worker. She came to Japan on a child of Japanese national visa. Why Japan? Child of Japanese national She digs the following Tokyo bits: kari-kari ume onigiri (crispy sour plum rice balls), the smell of tatami (Japanese reed mats), long long escalators in the subway, the idea (if not the taste) of curry donuts and cucumber pepsi, and ridiculous parasols. She, however, is a touch miffed by the relative lack of veggie food, chikan (pervert) hands on my ass in rush hour, the overplastification of everything (eg. triple-bagged groceries), moshiwake gozaimasen, and where are all the trash cans? For more info on Selena Hoy you should send an email or visit her flickr page.

image: S. Hoy

“Their schoolbags were puddled around their socks, forgotten”

It’s a brisk winter evening. Coming out of Japanese class, we crossed the plaza beneath the tall silver arch that stretches from the keitai[1] shop to the dilapidated tiled alcove containing a Doutor[2], a boba-tea shop[3], and a small, bright toy-train jungle gym usually surrounded by a smattering of grandparents resting with their shopping, while their young charges cavort on the astro-turf. More lonely a place than before, now that the Tokyu Hands[4] has closed up shop and moved down the road. We happened on two pubescent boys in middle school uniforms with navy blue short-pants sharing a tentative, tender kiss. One was touching the other’s hair at the side of his face, just barely. Their schoolbags were puddled around their socks, forgotten.

PDA is fairly non-existent in Japan: the most you usually get is some hetero hand-holding - and then only with young couples. And regular gayness isn’t seen much, even in ultra-modern Tokyo. Though you’re likely to see a flaming transvestite if you wander Shinjuku’s Kabuki-cho[5], the sighting of non-theatrical same-sex public affection is extremely rare.

Add this to the fact that our little outpost of Machida[6] isn’t exactly the center of hipster Tokyo, and that the lovers were probably pre-teen.

I don’t know those young boys, but I know that adolescent love and desire is hard enough to reckon with when you’re straight. With all the other factors compounding the difficulty, we felt as though we had stumbled across something special happening.

Hang tough, young men.

referenced works

  1. Cellphone.
  2. Lower-end coffeeshop that can be found near almost every train station in Tokyo (if not, their rival Veloce have probably beaten them to it).
  3. Sweet tea with milk (or should that be milk with tea) and gummy balls made of tapioca flour. Also known as "pearl milk tea" (珍珠奶茶) in Taiwan, where it originated, or just tapioca tea here in Japan.
  4. A supersized "department store" that is either a true emporium of miscellany, or a logistical Babel, depending on your perspective. If Tokyo's snootier serecto shoppu have editorializing buyers trying to promote a curatorship of taste, Tokyu Hands is the reverse, aspiring to include absolutely everything, in order to become a kind of universal archive of Stuff.
  5. A warren of narrow streets housing various sketchy propositions controlled by yakuza cartels, despite being named for a respectable traditional Japanese art form.
  6. Machida is a city in western Tokyo on the Odakyu line. It's a nice mix of swish and down-market.

location information

  • Name: the arch in HaraMachida
  • Time of story: late night
  • Latitude: 35.540636
  • Longitude: 139.448999
  • 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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