I first noticed the sensation on the new type Yamanote Line train, with the dual LCD displays over each door (one displaying station information and the other travel info, weather, advertising, etc.) and the car bodies that curve out from the base, making for a larger interior. I looked around, found the displays interesting and useful, admired the new design that provided more interior room from the same base, and... felt a strange detachment. I sat there - on the train - but feeling as though I was not quite... actually there. This feeling has been very persistent, stubborn, and not quite shakeable. The trains seem as though they are begrudgingly beginning to accept my existence on them, but what in the world is this strange feeling?
Then, yesterday evening, I arrived early in Shibuya for an appointment, so I leisurely walked down Dogenzaka from the rear exit of the Inokashira Line. I once again came face to face with the shock that Tokyo often provides any long-term resident - the shock of discovering an entire area changed almost beyond recognition. I drifted down the street taking in the crowds of predominantly teenagers and people in their twenties, the discount drug stores(!), the fast food places(!) and it began to seep in what the cold new trains had been trying to tell me.
When I lived in San Francisco in the early eighties, I was a bit nervous during my first month there, but the city soon became my town. Then when I moved to Tokyo in late 1984, the same thing happened - I was initially nervous (new culture, new language, etc.), but soon, and for the rest of the eighties and all of the nineties, Tokyo became my town.
Now? Tokyo belongs to people from one to thirty-eight, but not to forty-five-year-old Lyle. I mean... I'm here and I am taking pictures and observing events, but I have become a guest in the world. I well remember my disdain for those hangers on from distant eras who were always out of touch with now, but now (now?) I see it's not even a mental choice - it's a physical thing.
Or not? I have never lived in any city on this planet as long as I've lived in Tokyo. Maybe this is just the disillusionment of having learned a city, figured the learning process was over, and then had it change from under my feet. If I move to a new city, will it become mine as cities always did before? Probably not, but there's a good side to all of this as well. As I stood near the Hachiko statue in Shibuya taking in the surrounding scene, I was probably better able to see it than I ever have been before. Better able to see the playing field from the stands than down on the field itself? Hmmm....
And with that, I'll stop before this spins out of control in a sophistic whirlwind of words - ever chasing the truth further away in a futile attempt to pin it down. Copyright 2005 by Lyle (Hiroshi) Saxon, Images Through Glass, Tokyo