mjj (flemmings) wrote,

The unpersistence of memory

This day in 1989 my sister and I arrived in Japan for the first time. We took the shuttle bus to the Shiba Park Hotel, thus postponing the then-horrors of the Skyliner for another eighteen months. The bus crawled through evening traffic which nonetheless moved, and stopped at various hotels, one of which outfitted its bellhops in Phillip Morris monkey suits, which I'd never seen in any American or European hotel I'd been in. Thus began that disconcerting sense of dislocation that Japan carried with it until I eventually just stopped noticing.

The trouble is that I remember very little else about Tokyo that trip. My memories are all images of Kyoto and Osaka and Kobe, and the space-warp layout of Kanazawa city. Somehow Tokyo didn't impress me as an entity the way Kyoto did. That all changed when I lived there. Tokyo was the presence and Kyoto the movie setting. But even those first glimpses of Kyoto melt into the ones eighteen months later, and even a little into a weekend trip I took in... '92? '93? I forget.

I took pictures on that trip, loads and loads of them. They disappeared in my house while I was in Japan. For years the experience of those two weeks was the hallmark of 'Japan' that I hoped to find again. And now I barely remember it at all.

(In Tokyo I'd been advised to go visit Rikugien park in Komagome. I went out the wrong exit and found myself in a maze of little shops, very shitamachi. When I worked in Komagome I occasionally went to the other side of the station but never found the same little town I'd seen in 1989. Japan was like that-- never the same as it looked the first time.)

On the other hand, this day a mere two years later I moved down to Tokyo from Fukushima, and that I remember vividly, because it was all so much more fraught and grungy and unpleasant. Beautiful and evocative is for tourists. Inhabitants see quite a different place.
Tags: japan, place, rl

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