TOKYO ALL NIGHT

Neil : We stayed in Tokyo all night. This wasn’t the plan.

Duncan: It completely wasn’t the plan but we made the most of it. Getting off at Tokyo station was a good call.

N: Way better than Shinagawa. If we had been stuck there all night I think we would have been bored to death.

Do you think we caught the wrong train because we are out of practice? This was the first night out in Tokyo for over two years, since right before the pandemic. It’s possible I haven’t actually been out in the proper heart of the city since 2019. Everything was as I knew it, topographically – I could practically walk around with my eyes closed – and yet as we ran to get the last train we got on the wrong platform and in the wrong direction. I could hardly believe it.

At first, I was so exhausted in advance – a real miseryguts knowing that we would have to grind it out until morning as there is just no other way of getting back. By dawn you are always desperate to get into bed. I thought we would probably just wander around Ginza and Hibiya and find some twenty four hour booze joints. But I wasn’t really in the mood.

D: Yes, had it rained we would’ve found a dive and dug in with croquettes and fried chicken but we were fortunate in that it was a warmish night and quite enchanting around there; quite lovely at that late hour. The area always has a silvery calm and spaciousness. The streets are so clean! Shinagawa is very banal by comparison.

N: We spent the night in Hibiya park. Aside from a group of rowdy young men in one corner having a night party for the first hour, we had the entire place to ourselves. Until dawn. I found it strangely magical.

D: I haven’t been there for so long…

We must go back and have a Weissbier at the German beer hall there this summer.

N: Definitely.

It was so peaceful just to sit there in the middle of the city. Just down the way from the Imperial Palace; breathe and take it all in. ..

One very big difference between you and me is that you cannot be still for a long time. Whereas I have absolutely perfected the art of not moving, staring into space: to be almost immobile. You had to keep going off for explorations.

D: Oh I need to move – too much sitting around makes me itchy for new vistas. I had to go and explore the park – in Japan you can do that without any fear. It’s so safe here. What a lovely thing that is.

N: But then the second time, you didn’t come back.



D: The first wander was a five minute round the block but the second time I delved much further and almost got lost.

I navigated back to the quad where you were by locating the ‘stiletto’ building we’d passed comment on earlier. I reckon it was a twenty-five or thirty minute saunter but it must have seemed much longer.

N: For a while, I entered that state of pure dread, when you think someone has disappeared.

I remember the same thing happened that weird time in China Town in Kuala Lumpur, where you just vanished off the face off the earth. Maybe we have seen too many murder documentaries on Netflix. But I had all these ‘the last time we saw him alive’ type nightmares. I could see you walking off, again and again in my mind.

D: Yes. Can totally imagine the Netflix episode… And yes, the Kuala Lumpur China Town experience is still very vivid to me – we lost each other looking at bootleg albums in the market. It wasn’t dangerous there but it was alarming!

N: The irony is that Tokyo is, and just feels, as you say, so safe. Where else would you wander around at three in the morning, and not for one second worry that something untoward would happen to you? Even in the middle of the park, on the central lawn, there was that strange little robot mower. When we got there at first, I thought it was some kind of armadillo or alien creature we had stumbled upon, just going from edge to edge doing its business in the park lamplight. In most countries, it would surely be stolen within a couple of hours, or vandalized; smashed. There was something quite tranquil about just watching it work, as though it were alive.

D: It’s hard to imagine a less threatening place.

I liked the almost imperceptible thrum of the grass-cutting robot as it made its way around the quad.

N: When you eventually came back, I was so happy. And then we just stayed on the park bench. You were asleep. On my shoulder.

It’s a good job I bought that hoodie along with us, actually as it started to get a bit cold – I had assumed that the club we went to beforehand – six floors underground in the middle of Kabukicho in Shinjuku – would be hideously over-airconditioned, so I had an extra layer, in my bag, just in case, when in fact in the end, it had been boiling hot. I couldn’t even venture from where I was just by the door and stayed by the fan. I just wasn’t used to being so compressed with other people. And so I think that missing the train afterwards was in a way, serendipity, as I had found the manic last-train-claustrophobia of the sardine level of squashed togetherness almost unbearable, and probably the evening would afterwards have just gone downhill in irritated bickering.

In fact, during that last five minute journey, propped up by jammed in people around me and not even holding a handrail because I couldn’t reach one, I just closed my eyes; tears under my mask. At first we were arguing ( or rather I was shouting) ; I wasn’t ever doing this again etc etc, I was never coming to Tokyo again etc etc. For me, in many ways it was all a bit unnerving.

I know I am much more neurotic than you generally, but weren’t you at all worried about the coronavirus, when we know that Shinjuku is the ‘hotbed’?

D: I suppose since Ukraine happened, I’ve more or less stopped worrying about the coronavirus. We are vaccinated and we still have to be careful but it is hard to believe that we won’t catch it one day. It is important to not let fear of it impede our lives too much. I think I am ready to re-enter the world now. It seems many others had the same idea last night – out for the first time in over two years.

N: It was rocking. And practically a reunion.

After some prevaricating, we had decided eventually to bite the bullet and go to ‘June Gloom’ – a performance and drag show event at Club Heist. It was great to see everyone after such a long time. Energizing. And I could hardly believe that I myself had actually performed at an event in that very same building, could hardly imagine the roles being switched as I looked on from the audience. I think I would just have too much stage fright now – or would I ? Part of me is aching to get to the piano keys again and do all of that once more.

D: I would like to return to the stage when the theme/venue is right for my act. I would definitely like to do a show. I feel it’s been so long that it would be refreshing now. I could do something new and intriguing. It’s good in some ways to have had a break. I mean we are still making movie shorts and generally being creative with our projects but yes, time is ripe for DWhom to come back methinks…

N: When we first got in there, I felt like I couldn’t breathe.

D: It was alarmingly packed at first. But after a few drinks, the audience kind of adapted to the space and an intuitive osmosis happened. The crowd gelled as an organism and the night took off. But, I feel that venue is too small and a more spacious one is needed for future events.

N: I reckon so. Pleased they had such a good door though.

Die Schwarze Frau (the exquisite creature with the fan, standing in the dressing room door), sang ‘Gloomy Sunday’ – one of my favourite songs. It was nice to have live singing rather than just lip syncing as I feel it puts you in a different mode; a more direct receptivity. I said that at one point he ought to do some French chansons in cafes and smaller cabarets; he asked if I would be the accompanist. I think I would love that.

D: It would be a marriage made in heaven (and, well, hell – in a good way: obviously). It would be like the hags scene-within-a-scene in our movie Girl Goned – high/low absinthe-drenched gothic fin-de-siècle – quite dark it would be, non?

N: Yes, it would. Melancholic. But stagey. But with also real emotion.

Another dimension.

It was a super intense, colourful experience being out in Shinjuku again.

I both loved and hated it. But this was perhaps intensified further, I think, by the fact that we had already been out in Yokohama much earlier in the afternoon for a cinematic matinee at Jack and Betty, and our minds were already drenched and (over)stimulated by the film.

We saw ‘Titane: the Cannes Palme D’Or winner from 2021, directed by Julia Ducourneau.

It was crazy : disturbing, violent, but beautiful. Also tender. I loved it.

D: Me too! I was totally wowed by it. True body horror masterpiece with a peculiar, gross intimacy. I was reminded of other movies that have this highly original and intense aesthetic and that are a wild trip – such as The Devils, Possession, The Cook the Thief, his Wife and her Lover…

All the great little art cinemas in that area – so many movies to see.

(Ah, Frank Zappa on the movie poster – always happy to clock his face anywhere.)

N: Yes I think perhaps we ought to go and see it. I remember you put a Frank Zappa song on one of those first compilations you made me for me when you were still at university.

And talking about sensory overload: smell-wise, as the smell soundtrack yesterday you were wearing Pu’Er by One Day, the fourth part of the tea perfume collection I got the other day from Hong Kong. The Oolong hadn’t worked at all – too….rich and weirdly oolongy, but my instincts were right about this one. It smelled really nice on you – a delicate tea facet interlacing the sandalwood (the main note), vetiver and musks and cedarwood; honestly, you were just emanating this scent from the time we left the house at 1:30pm Saturday to when we got home at 7:00 am Sunday. The sillage was constant, but not overpowering. A proper ‘aura’ that melded right. I really enjoyed it. And for me, being truly immersed in a film, but having that extra element of scent throughout, is always thrilling. It augments the overall experience.

I was for some reason in typically overdone tropical ylang ylang mode (Chanel No 5 on one arm; Guerlain Lys Soleia and Ylang Vanille elsewhere as well as Nuxe Huile Prodigieuse for good measure); not sure it was necessarily the most perfect choice, but I did feel that we complemented each other well in our third row cinema seats. Flowers and vanilla and tea and wood. Merrily intoxicated all round.

D: I wonder if those nearby were also ‘merrily intoxicated’….

But yes – I took to Pu’er Tea immediately. It is a perfect blend for my skin and my scent aesthetic. I love that the sandalwood is tempered by tea and cedarwood. I am a huge musk fan – most of my favourite scents feature it. I felt this scent gave off a ‘glow’ and was good throughout the day. I might need a bottle.

N: I think so.

But back to Titane again for just a moment. I think you and I were both actually relieved to have seen a proper film: I can see why the director won the top prize in cinema for Titane. It was so visceral and invested; one of those films where your brain and perception is changed as a result of watching it (a sign of real cinema). It was almost difficult to talk for a while when we came out and I felt disoriented being in natural light. The images and sensations of the film were all circulating in the mind and physical body for a long time afterwards when we sat down on the street for an early dinner…..just looking out and watching the parade of people.

Do you think we were mad to then want to saturate ourselves even further with all the stimuli of Tokyo? Or is it just a natural reaction to weeks of working and being respectable and proper?

D: I think it was a perfect Saturday. Cinema. Show with friends. Beer, g and t, kebab, more beer in the park, napping on the park bench, nibbling on conbini snacks, chatting about the strange buildings in our midst, sauntering here and there in the depths of the night, seeing in the dawn and getting the first train and first bus back. I feel quite refreshed by it! I didn’t sleep well the night before but slept deeply after all that.

N: Yes. I am actually really glad we missed the train.

I think having all those hours to kill and just absorb the green was quite the serene antidote.

I also liked wandering around Hibiya and into Ginza, with nobody around, as night turned to morning.

D: Me too. Poor Godzilla. He looks so lonely and abject in the blue light of dawn. He really should find another giant lizard companion and go for a beer and yakitori. The world is kinder by far under red lantern light.

N: When we finally got on the bus from Ofuna, after the long train journey, I was exhausted. And so were you.

D: Yes. But I napped pleasantly. Maybe the Pu’Er Tea scent contributed to this sense of ease and peace. I really like its gentle refinement. (Damn how grey my hair is now! That mask was a big hit though! Bejeweled oji-chan!))

N: You got a lot of compliments. It was from Ofuna market, wasn’t it?

D. Yes. From that stall.

N: We slept in with the cat, and got up very late today – I think I finally got onto the futon just after eight. A little bleary eyed when I woke up, but psychically revitalized.

Overall, it was a really interesting day and night.

D: It was.

I’m sniffing my wrist again.

This is definitely a D scent.

N: It is yesterday.

17 Comments

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17 responses to “TOKYO ALL NIGHT

  1. Thanks for the photos and the dialog. I enjoyed it very much.

  2. Emma Fushimi

    What a brilliant, evocative conversation!
    A little escapade that makes the perfect bedtime story. I’ll read it again tomorrow

    • Oh thanks. It’s all a bit juvenile, probably, in some people’s eyes, but we had a great time ultimately. Much as I love living in Kamakura, sometimes just having the sheer grandeur of Tokyo around you can rev you up a bit!

  3. Wow. I don’t think I could handle that much excitement. I imagine the people wearing full face coverings would have found it even hotter inside! Great back-and-forth dialogue though.

    • Arigato. It WAS a lot of excitement for one day (and yes, god knows how hot the performers must have been), but now, on this rainy Monday morning, alone, I feel absolutely fantastic because of our vagabond night out. Really clear-headed and revived.

  4. georgemarrows

    Thank you for that. I love the idea of staying out all night in a central Tokyo park.

  5. Wow! That was quite the switch from teetotaler to reckless bravado in this post pandemic world. Thank you for sharing your 24 hour adventure with us. Can’t truly imagine a city that large being safe late night. My club and cinema days are over as South Asia has given me a phobia of crowds. (Deadly stampedes and fights are terribly common here.)

    • Wow. No stampedes and rarely fights here.

      I mean, as in Nepal, you could be killed by an earthquake at any given moment, which sometimes makes me question why I am even here. And there is the odd maniac knife attack on the subway when some alienated individual loses it. And in the place where we were, Kabukicho, if you wandered into the wrong yakuza bar you might get aggressively fleeced; but essentially, wherever you go, you feel totally unthreatened – it is something you can SENSE (I had quite the opposite feeling, for example, down in the subway in Mexico City: there was something in the air). Just the fact that the robot lawnmower was left untouched, and that nothing is vandalized. For me this is the most beautiful thing about Japan, in truth. You can say it is social brainwashing, but it feels much more elevated and special than that; it’s a feeling of, there is no NEED to be aggressive; so if you bump into someone in the street, for example, in the UK men are often already pumped up with aggro and ready to react, whereas here, both parties will probably just be politely apologizing. I have seen the odd spat between exhausted salarymen on the train, but overall it is wonderfully tranquil in that regard. We would never have stayed there all night otherwise!

      Also, yes: my goodness – from zero (though not quite) to sixty. These last few days I am feeling very in need of SILENCE

  6. Jools

    What a perfect way to describe your night. A conversation; makes me feel part of it. ❤️

  7. Robin

    Read this with joy and happiness for your unexpected adventure, and the pleasure of reading about in dialogue. Thank you, N. and D.

    • It was a great night actually. I am slightly waiting for coronavirus symptoms to start appearing – the AIR in there! – Jesus I really am not used to it now and am not in a hurry to get back there either (although D and I are already half planning our next performance together (!); I can’t write a sentence today without contradicting myself

      but to just feel so free and uninhibited and surrounded by city space once we had left was actually really quite beautiful

  8. What a fabulous dialogue between you both! I have not done an all nighter in over 30 years, makes me remember them a bit fondly. but oh how I love a warm bed. Love all the images and adventures.

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