Right where I’m supposed to be

It seems like it’s that time in the term, that time of year, when ‘where has the time gone?’ becomes ‘how am I going to get everything done?’ and it’s all too easy to stay at home doing piles of marking or feeling guilty about not doing piles of marking. So I decided that this afternoon I would not to succumb to either hours of wielding a red pen or sitting at home casting around for what I have been reliably informed is ‘displacement activity’, but that I would go out and meet a friend for coffee. What made this post bubble up in my mind, though, was not the hours spent putting the world to rights, but the journey home.

10:30 and I needed to get back to Shibuya station to catch my train home. I briefly considered waiting for a bus, but must admit it was a flicker of consideration really, before I flagged down a taxi. It wasn’t a long journey, basically a minimum-fare trip straight down Roppongi Dori, but the taxi driver turned round several times to check where I wanted to be dropped off. Since the station is big and has a number of entrances, I told him that any would do; not a satisfactory answer. He turned round again to ask for more clarification. Just as I was starting to wonder, ‘What kind of taxi driver are you?’ he added to his apology for not being clearer about directions, ‘I’m from Tohoku.’

I asked him how long he had been in Tokyo (6 months), whether his relocating had any connection to the aftermath of the Great East Japan Earthquake (yes), and if he had been a taxi driver in Tohoku (no). It was just a 5-minute taxi ride, but it was also a few words that stopped me in my tracks. ‘I’m from Tohoku.’ A whole life behind a sentence. I wonder what he has been through in the last 18 months.

On the train down to Jiyugaoka it was quite crowded, but not squashed. Just enough that it was a little difficult to find a strap or bar to hold onto. Twice, a woman about my age, standing with her young son, almost went flying as the train slowed down. I was tucked into a corner, but reached out and caught her. The first time she smiled but said to her son that she was embarrassed. The second time I grabbed her she laughed out loud and held onto my arm for a moment as we nodded at the perils of commuting.

A transfer at Jiyugaoka and I was almost home. At 11 the train was still full enough for some people to be standing up. Near Ookayama the lights in a university were still blazing, Tokyo seemed hours away from sleep. I walked home under a clear sky full of stars with Pizzicato 5 turned up loud on my iPod. Some days I get lost in work, today was not one of them.

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