Tuesday, July 23, 2013

By Robin: The Gaijin and the Gorilla Lizard (Part Two)



 
            Jun pulls me up and out of Shibuya station and onto the bustling streets.  Middle aged women flit from store to store, eager to capture a good buy before the high school girls get here in the afternoon.  We move away from their set lines of shopping and head towards a sort-of-square nearby.  Jun pulls away quickly, almost skipping.  She stops before the famed statue of Hachiko. 
            Again, we feel the wind whip up around us. Jun shivers, but tries to hide it. Instead she pulls up closer to the dog statue.      Standing there admiring the statue of a loyal pet, we notice a younger women, about our age, strolling by.  Jun elbows me.
            “I think she’s checking you out,” she nods toward a short, rather slender girl in a crisp suit. 
            “Eh, not quite my type.”
            “So what is?” says a smooth, raspy voice from behind.
            A woman sways out from behind the stone dog, “My guess it’s cute American girls with snotty attitudes.  At least, that’s how it looks from here.”
            A quiet little screech slips through Jun’s pursed lips, “Yoshiko, you’re one to talk.”
            Jun embraces the woman, who is several inches shorter than her, but sports nearly the same figure and most striking, the same eyes.  Unlike Jun, her hair bobs about her face, a sea of green.
            “I finally see the mysterious Jun-chan.”
            “Not my fault.  They keep us trapped up there.”
            “Sure, whatever you say girlie.”
            “You coulda come to visit you know.”
            The woman, Yoshiko, brushes Jun off and wanders a bit away.  She turns around in a slow, broad sweep, the ends of her long coat swinging in the breeze: “And leave all this behind for Chiba.  No way.  And besides, you’re only a cousin.”
            Jun rolls her eyes, “You’re still full of yourself.  I thought you’d outgrow that.”
            “You know, I thought so to,” Yoshiko responds with a muffled laugh.
            All this time, I just stand there, watching two beautiful women banter as if they only saw each other yesterday and I was no where around.  I hadn’t realized how Japanese Jun really looked until Yoshiko showed up.  I guess she always sounded like any girl I met, and well, acted like it too, so I never thought of her as being Japanese.  She’s just the intense California girl I met on the plane coming to Japan. 
            “Oh damn, I’m being so rude.  Yoshi-chan, this is my friend Warren Carver.”  
            I wave a bit. 
            “And this is my cousin, on my Mom’s side, Watanabe Yoshiko.”
            Yoshiko smiles.  I can see a few creases about her lips, but she’s still gorgeous.  She bows rather stiffly and unusually low, “It is an honor to meet you Carver-san.”
            I look to Jun; she’s trying not to laugh.  I smile and bow back.  “It’s very nice to meet you Watanabe-san.”
            Yoshiko starts laughing loudly, gripping her belly.  Jun chimes in.  The two girls hold each other as they laugh, giggling till they are out of breath.
            Between gasps Jun looks to me, “My god Warren, you are clueless aren’t you?”
            “What do you mean?”
            Yoshiko comes over and puts her arm around me and tries to stop laughing.  She speaks between deep breathes, “It’s just a joke, you know.  No need to be so formal.”
            “Yeah, I get it.  Sorry.”
            “It’s kinda sweet though.  I mean, you obviously knew how to act, more than most gaijin.  And well, you seemed sincere and all.  I’ll take it as a compliment.”
            With a deep breath I sigh, “Thanks.”
            Jun interrupts by grabbing Yoshiko by the arm and pulling her closer.  “So, what’s up?”
            “Not much.  Wanted to get out, maybe see if I could find you.  What about you?”
            “Finally got a day away from work.  Thought we’d start our sightseeing.”
            “So, why are you in Shibuya than?”
            I stare hard at Jun, “That’s what I wanted to know too?”
            Jun stares back at me before looking back to her cousin.  “I wanted to see if the old story was true.”
            “You still believe in those things?” Yoshiko asks.
            “Hey, you’re here aren’t you?”
            Yoshiko uses her lose arm to grab hold of me.  “Okay, you’re right.  I’m here.  You came here to wait for me, and well, I showed.  My many thanks to Hachiko-san for reuniting me with my long-lost cousin.”
            “You wanted to see the dog?”  I ask Jun.
            “Yeah. Now don’t tell anyone, okay?”
            “Sure, no problem. So, do we really have to have to stay in Shibuya?”
            “Nah, I found what I was looking for.”
            “Great!”  Yoshiko is beaming as she pulls us back towards the station.  “I’m so in need of some really stupid fun.  And there’s this place I just have to show you.”
            I straighten as I am pulled forward, “So where are we going?”
            “The most useless, superfluous, and ridiculous site in all of Tokyo.”
            “Don’t tell me,” Jun says as she shuffles beside Yoshiko.  Her voice gets low and monotone, “We’re going to Odaiba.”


***

We emerge from the train station with a small but determined group of people. Yosihko grabs my left hand; Jun grabs my right one. I feel a bit of heat in my face as I look to Jun, but it quickly dies when a cool breeze smacks as I twist in Yoshiko’s grasp. Before long a megalith of steel and brick looms into Yoshiko’s path. Worn murals decorate the rather bare walls. I faceplant into the door before I realize that Yoshiko comes up a bit short.
“So what do you think?”
I try to smile, “It’s big.”
I then notice she is looking at Jun, not me. Jun shrugs, “It’s okay, I guess.”
Yoshiko’s open smile diminishes quickly, “Really?”
“I mean, it’s just not a lot to look at,” Jun’s reply slowly grows soft.
I come between the two, “This must be just the outside. Reinforced and all in case of disaster, right?”
Yoshiko’s smile comes back, “Exactly. It’s a lot nicer inside.”
We are all led us into the mall, a spring back in Yoshiko’s step. As we enter, Jun and I simultaneously crane our heads up to see the story upon story of bright lights and outrageous store fronts. Inside, a new world greets us. A bright blue sky and long clouds stream above us on the ceiling. Off to the near east, a watery, yellow sun shines down. The hard, stiff building we saw outside opens up before us.
Bright signs and unique fronts come in and out of view as Jun pulls me down the main thoroughfare. Her haphazard movements from one side to another make it hard to stay near her, and the crowd occasionally separates us for a moment. I never quite have time to fully read any signs, but I think I notice a mini-theme park, a number of children’s stores, and family friendly restaurants. When we reach the first set of large glass elevators, Yoshiko takes Jun’s and my hands and leads us in.
We get off on the last floor. Yoshiko, still holding on to us, leads us down one route and another as I glimpse one theme after another. After first, there is a set of what I guess are stores with a European feel. Around another corner, there is a Hollywood themed area; I notice a rather dilapidated Planet Hollywood with few visitors. Before long, there is an Edo period section, with screen doors and paper lanterns. I feel lost in the maze before Yoshiko suddenly stops.
She smiles at Jun, “So?’
Jun looks at the front, back to Yoshiko and back again, “Is this it?”
I stand there just staring. Before me is what looks like an old style ramen shop. There is a short curtain above the door. The sides of the door seem to be guarded by narutomaki, the pink spiral a neon light against the raised white background of the slices.
“Of course it is,” Yoshiko beams at both Jun and I.
Jun ducks under the fringed curtain. I have to push it aside to see as I enter. When we step in, a girl in with a long red ponytail and cross-shaped scar on her cheek greets us. This Kenshin starts to give the introduction but stops short when Yoshiko steps in. The young women bows to Jun and moves away.
“Do you work here or something?” I ask Yoshiko.
Jun slaps my shoulder, “She owns it.”
Yoshiko leads us past the front, where young people sit at booths decorated by more recent anime and manga paraphernalia. A female Naruto carrying a tray of drinks nimbly ducks around us. Towards what I think is the back is yet another door. Here, a green haired girl in a “Jun” costume opens the door. I can see her smile beneath her bird helmet and am amazed at the likeness to the Gatchaman doll I have at home.
This second room is lightly peopled with adults. A group of young American men flirt with a scantily clad Faye while the rest of her Cowboy Bebop cast man the rest of a long bar. Strains of the Yoko Kanno soundtrack are nearly drowned out by all the chatting. Yoshiko moves out and on to a patio that overlooks Tokyo Bay. The wind suddenly whips by us, and Jun nearly crashes back into me. Yoshiko plunges forward to a spot near the edge and sits down at the table.
“Great view, huh?” Yoshiko asks me.
Instead of taking a seat, I am at the railing looking out into the bay. The sun catches at the backs of small waves that grow and crash long before they reach the shore. The water seems to be a reflection of the sky; the small breakers are long and run ragged across the water’s surface, just like the clouds racing along the sky.
“It’s great!”
“I still can’t believe you wanted a spot with a patio. Aren’t you worried?”
Yoshiko just shrugs and hands Jun a menu, “Not really. We have had a few instances and the furniture takes a beating, but nothing much else.”
I sit down in a rather cheap plastic chair and pull up to a slightly warped plastic table. “I hope business makes up for it.”
“It does. I get a lot of people who just come out for the thrill of it all. They are always willing to stay and keep ordering, just in case.” Yoshiko stops and smiles wider, “And before long, they have a large bill and I have a nice profit.”
I start to look over the menu just as a guy with a thin braid and Chinese style clothing walks up, “What can I get you?”

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