The unplugged logic of Tokyo love

I feel like I’m falling into too much of a routine in my Tokyo life lately. I have English club (aka ESS— English Speaking Society) 3 days a week after school on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays, which means I get out of work around 6:15/6:30 on those days. So on the non-ESS days I try to leave work as precisely at 5 as possible, challenging myself to bike to the gym and change into my gym clothes so that I’m on the floor by 5:45 (usually unattainable). After the gym, I bike home, make a late dinner, and watch TV until bed. On Tuesdays I have Ruby Room so I try to leave school right after ESS finishes, bike home quickly, change/put on makeup, and ideally make it to Ruby by 8:30ish. Any time before my friend and favorite performer, Sou, goes on is okay with me, but an arrival after 9 means leaving my friends in the lurch a bit, plus there’s no possibility of an exit before 11:30 or so.

My Tokyo world is starting to contract around me. Its thick, receding walls enveloping a smaller and smaller area— the red-glow Ruby Room lounge, my little apartment, certain cuts of the path around Inokashira Park’s pond—not even the whole park—my school, my gym, a few commonly frequented Starbucks…What a dreary picture.

And yet the tiniest deviation from this strictly planted routine is enough for me to feel the thrills of Tokyo vibrating through my whole body again.

Today, for example, with no live shows/plans/dates/etc I dallied at school until around 7, ate a quick dinner of gyoza and ramen at a fast food joint near my school that I haven’t been to in months, and then biked directly south of my school’s station to an as-of-yet unvisited Starbucks to do some writing.

Even though the roads were mere blocks from my school’s station— the station I visit on a near daily basis—I had never treaded over them before, and the sheer and total newness of that was even physically thrilling. That’s one of the beautiful things of living in Tokyo, that it’s so unimaginably vast and sprawling that there’s effectively an endless number of streets and streets corners that I’ve never passed over before.

Excepting Ruby Tuesday night, I think those 15 minutes on my bike this evening were the happiest I’ve felt in the past 5 days. And even as I was flying down the dusk-covered streets, I knew there was nothing especially exceptional about them. At one point I rode down a wide, completely unlit residential street, and suddenly a massive school rose up on my left, the grounds and buildings also totally unilluminated except for the ground-floor gym, whose sliding side-door was swung open, light pouring out onto the dark sidewalk, and the sounds of shrieks, whistles, and shoes scraping against the wax floor echoing over the quiet streets. Across the rectangle patch of light, Japanese high school boys flew back and forth, hunched over and staring straight ahead, embroiled in an intense basketball game.

Around the next corner I stopped and back-tracked over the entrance to a beautiful apartment complex. There was a black wrought-iron gate out front, with the complex’s name engraved on an afixed stone plate, so I could only peer between the bars into the sprawling brick-paved grounds, little pockets of which were lit up by electric lanterns, making their corners just visible from where I stood.

It’s times like this that I wonder, almost worry, that my love for Tokyo is something ungrounded in rationality. I feel myself falling on a Japanese word in trying to describe this: 理屈抜き(rikutsunuki), which means something like “without logic,” though my dictionary translates it to “visceral” (which to me seems to have the sinister echo of the word “vicious” hidden inside it) and the individual kanji (Chinese characters) mean something closer to “unplugged of logic” if that makes any sense.

Anyway I don’t know why this is something that actually worries me. I guess it reminds me of that feeling of blind infatuation towards a person. The kind that, when you try to assign legitimate reasons to your obsession, you feel at a loss and begin to wonder if the object of your infatuation even exists in the external world, or if its merely an idea you’ve created in your own head. I guess that’s the root of my fear of my rikutsunuki love for Tokyo. I worry that without being cemented to concrete logic, my infatuation risks being detached from reality itself…

But Tokyo does have a strange, unaccountable power. Just last Tuesday I met a cool Brooklyn-based musician, who did a passionate solo keyboard performance at Ruby, and who was visiting Tokyo for the first time. I guess she had been traveling around Japan for nearly a month, but only budgeted a few days in Tokyo (Tuesday being her last night). But she was already in love with the city. Before starting her second song, she said that she hails from the second best city in the world (New York)—Tokyo being the first. And she didn’t even say that just to appease the audience (though they loved that). I’ve actually seen this so many times before, especially from short-time visitors— this sudden, almost frantic attachment to Tokyo.

I guess a love as vast, formless and unreasonable as a “love for a city” has to be somewhat detached from reality. And at least it’s a comfort to know that this unreality doesn’t just exist fragilely inside the bounds of my own head, but is inexplicably shared among nearly all of the visitors that Tokyo possesses with its queer spell.


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