Tokyo has these guys called Nationalists who want Japan
to go back to the ‘old ways’. Ominous. Except you almost
never see their faces. They ride around the city in these black loudspeaker
vans with heavily blacked-out windows, trailing massive black flags
from the back, playing blaring martial music and bellowing things like,
presumably, 'Remember Pearl Harbour - weren’t it great!'
But you never get to see the actual people. Almost.
I’m completely lost, as usual. I’m walking
down this huge wide street in the middle of Tokyo. Then notice two things.
There seem to be an awful lot of cops around, and some of them are looking
at me as though I’m a complete geijin idiot. And there’s
something going on ahead.
It’s a demonstration march, coming straight towards
me - and I’m the only non-Japanese in sight, I might add. Yup,
you guessed it. Black flags, blaring martial music. Several thousand
of the actual guys, on foot rather than inside vans, many in black uniforms
and wearing shades. They’re chanting something, very loudly. My
guess? ‘Kill all foreigners (especially thin, chain-smoking English
ones -- yeah, kill those suckers twice)!’
Nothing happened to me. I just ducked away down a side
street and got completely lost elsewhere.
The point is this, though. If you like to wander around
a new city and that city’s Tokyo, you’re going to get lost
an awful lot. I could reckon on a minimum of one hour each day I was
there. Most street signs, you see, aren’t even in pictograms -
they’re in a joined up Japanese script that the Western eye can
only interpret as a quick sketch by Jackson Pollock.. The only answer?
Take a Buddhist attitude to getting lost there. Accept it. Make the
most of it. I went through some great districts, saw street markets
and parks and places most tourists never get to see, simply by virtue
of not having the first clue where the hell I was.
Those Nationalists believe they know exactly where
they’re going. But actually, I pity them. It's often better not
These 'Postcards' were written, on request, for
an online mag that never saw the light of day ... so I thought 1'd put
them online here.