Tokyo Stories from Curious Outsiders

031 : Hakanai in a karaoke box near the Hachiko exit of Shibuya station, Shibuya-ku
Born the 20th century in Scotland, Hakanai currently works as a teacher. She came to Japan on a specialist in humanities visa. Why Japan? Spent teenage years listening to the UK band Japan. She digs the following Tokyo bits: the wailing of cicadas, the Yamanote line tunes (especially the Shinjuku one), the politeness and conscientiousness of the people, cycling between Nishi Shinjuku’s skyscrapers late at night, and the sunset from Kasai Rinkai Koen. She, however, is a touch miffed by super-sized cockroaches, people assuming she's American, and patriarchal culture (in some companies women are still expected to make tea for men! And that is the tip of the iceberg) For more info on Hakanai you should send an email.

image: Mark Thia

“A tongue was moving around my big toe, like a warm slug crawling. ”

Loveless in the karaoke box, I watched lyrics roll across a TV screen in time to unsung songs. A tongue was moving around my big toe, like a warm slug crawling. 

The owner of the tongue lifted his mouth from my foot for a moment and held the foot in his hand. He paused, and I looked at him, thinking that he might be going to speak, but the pause was not a long one. No sooner had he left my big toe than he started on the next one, with the same concentration.

I’d met him an hour before at Hachiko[1], the dog statue at Shibuya crossing. Hachiko’s story reminded me of another dog in another town, a different dog with the same story. All over the world, people were building monuments to obsessive compulsive canines. Philandering humans were fascinated by these exemplars of fidelity. 

“By the way, did I mention that I’m married?” he said, looking up from my middle toe. 

“No, but your advert was about feet, wasn’t it? Not long-term relationships.”

As he moved onto the next toe, I wondered how he decided the length of time to spend on each one. Or was it that once he had explored a particular toe he got bored and needed to find another. And what would happen after the tenth toe? Would he return to the first? Or would he travel further to the sole and heel of my foot? If he returned to the first toe and took as long there, I might have to spend all day in this karaoke box. 

He looked up again.

“There have been lots of famous foot fetishists, you know. Baudelaire was one, Goethe was one.”


“Yeah. People have tried to play down his erotic side, but it’s there in his writing.”

“Have you read the Sorrows of Young Werther?”

“Of course.”

“I think of it all the time when I see Lotte[2] products.”

“That company’s named after her, you know.”

“What about Lotteria[3]?”

“Same company,” he said, “Poor Goethe. His great unrequited love has been reduced to a fast food chain.” He reflected for a moment, then returned to my toes.

Later, outside the karaoke building, we said goodbye and that we’d meet again and then we parted. 

And I lost myself in the crowds wondering about it all. 

referenced works

  1. Dog hero from urban legend. Hachiko would go and wait patiently every evening at Shibuya station to pick up his owner, who lived nearby. For 10 years after the owner died, Hachiko kept up this routine in a moving gesture of loyalty. Read the full story here
  2. A South Korean-Japanese conglomerate that makes chewing gum, candy and other snacks.
  3. Italian-Japanese fast food chain also run by Lotte. Here you can try what is only ostensibly spaghetti, spruced up with various Japanese garnishes: fish eggs (fresh and smoked), seaweed, soy sauce - collectively grouped under a mishmash genre called wafu Italian (和風イタリアン).

location information

  • Name: a karaoke box near the Hachiko exit of Shibuya station
  • Time of story: afternoon
  • Latitude: 35.68693
  • Longitude: 139.686527
  • 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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