Tokyo Stories from Curious Outsiders

029 : Jason Gray in front of the 7-11 at the intersection of Mejiro-dori and Senkawa-dori, Nerima-ku
Born the Seventies in the UK, Jason Gray currently works as a journalist, translator and odd-job man. He came to Japan on a long-term resident visa. Why Japan? They were my band. He digs the following Tokyo bits: the lack of rage considering how big the city is, its fascinating history, the movie and art scene, its ever-changing nature, and that he’ll never know all of it. He, however, is a touch miffed by the fact that there isn't enough outrage considering the city's problems, that people often ignore what's around them, the obsession with time, that it's sometimes exhausting, and that it's still a smoker's paradise - but it's changing. For more info on Jason Gray you should send an email or visit his blog.

image: J. Gray

“I wince, more than her.”

Light turns green, I roll across the intersection. Walking along the sidewalk in front of me, a fashionable young woman. Burgundy crushed velvet skirt over other layers, black leather boots, vintage coat, long straight black hair. Goth-ish. Can’t see her face.

Walking with purpose. Confident strides, but not exactly in a hurry. Forget ogling. She’s on some kind of mission. Not going into that 7-11, like I am. 

I glance at her face as I roll in front of her. Her eyes and skin are slightly reddened. Her lip ring twitches. Distant eyes. Drugs?

I park my bicyclette at the combini.[1] Another glance. She tugs at something on her wrist. Is she trying to yank a thread from the pouch in her hand? Is the thread imaginary? Her face twitches again. That jerky hand motion…

She passes behind me. I turn to watch her walk away. She’s not pulling. 

She’s cutting. Slashing. 

One of those cheap pink plastic-handled straight razors that Japanese women use to shave their armpits. At least twenty gashes down the pale underside of her left forearm. Some are like cat scratches, others are deep slits. Blood oozes. 

Suddenly the blade is the only focused object in my field of vision. It sniks across her wrist again. I wince, more than her.

She walks and slashes. People go in and out of the combini, cross crosswalks. She beelines straight through. Nobody notices her, she notices nobody.

I look around for the omawari-san.[2] At night there’s usually at least one rookie on their mountain bike stationed at the big junction. Not tonight.

I watch her continue down the sidewalk, alone, small. Her right arm jerks with each slice as big transport trucks rumble past. 

referenced works

  1. Convenience store.
  2. Policeman. Often found patrolling empty streets on their bicycles. Known to harass loiterers and baffled foreigners on occasion - by asking to see their "alien cards"; maybe because there's a lack of real civil disturbance to resolve (Tokyo is said to be perhaps the safest large city in the world, something particularly noticeable at night). Maybe they would be better off tending more to the locals.

location information

  • Name: the 7-11 at the intersection of Mejiro-dori and Senkawa-dori
  • Address: 東京都練馬区練馬3-1-10
  • Time of story: late night
  • Latitude: 35.737138
  • Longitude: 139.650017
  • Map: Google Maps


  1. Shane [1] in Canada thinks: How sad…great writing Jason! In North America people would just stare at her rather than ignore her - how compassionate of you to want to get her some help and how frustrated you must have been when there was none around.
  2. Jason Gray [1] in Tokyo thinks: Thank you. The version posted here is just the first half (which, staying with the site’s concept, is “the moment”).

    But allow me to post the second half here in the comments:

    I watch her continue down the sidewalk, alone, small. Her right arm jerks with each slice as big transport trucks rumble past.

    Whatever happened, baby, it’s not that bad, I swear.

    I do the only thing I can do – enter the combini to buy what I came to buy. Which was what? I scan aisles. You sell gauze?

    I exit and look down the road. She’s gone. I eat my ice cream. My taste buds have shut down.

    Stand there, or get on your bike and look for her?

    I roll. I scope doorways and lobbies. Turning my head so much makes me dizzy.

    She could be in any one of thousands of concrete compartments, bleeding.

    Stupid thoughts. When you get home from mutilating yourself, do you still take your shoes off?

    I pass under the train tracks. Check back streets, houses. Peep windows.

    The most dilapidated, weed-infested playground in the world. Wouldn’t be in there. She’s not that depressed.

    I stop pedaling and just coast.

    I give up. She’s gone.

    I imagine seeing her again, in the daytime. The wounds have healed and she’s smiling.

    See, it wasn’t that bad.
  3. Shane [1] in Canada thinks: Again I say WOW! Thanks for sharing the second part of your story.
  4. selena [1] thinks: thanks, Jason.
  5. Imran Jaffery [1] in USA thinks: Excellent work Jason. I love the mood and sense of imagery. The ending in the second part is beautiful…a truly honest rationalization that we all do when we avoid acting on our better instincts.
  6. Jason Gray [1] thinks: Thanks for the feedback, much appreciated.

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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