Write about the night sky.
February 14 prompt, “A Writer’s Book of Days”
Neon rich in oranges, greens, blacks, yellows, reds, whites. Brighter than the North Star? No. Only seems so, the skyline of Shinjuku, Tokyo, at night.
The bustle’s undeniable. Day or night, Shinjuku never sleeps. In the daytime glare, it’s all about business. Shopping. Commerce. Eateries. Fast-food curries and sushi stops and ramen holes-in-the-walls with possibly the tastiest noodles you’ll ever have in your lifetime!
Cafes. Clothing stores. Bedding shops. The towering Kinokunyia bookstore favored by Japanese and foreigners for its significant supply of English tomes.
Not to mention the behemoth Shinjuku Station that funnels some 1.5 million people through its some 2,000 commuter, subway and long-distance trains that converge in the massive business and entertainment hub that defines western Tokyo.
By day, Shinjuku is beehive buzzing but it’s ugly. The eyesore of massive towering concrete structures can be both unappealing, even suffocating. Like in any Asian metro area, the streets are narrow and the traffic molasses on wheels.
And again like in any Asian country, it’s the alleyways that truly define a city or town. A web of chaotic twisting paths can lead either to extraordinary adventures and discoveries or massive headaches, delays and missed appointments if you’re trying to reach a destination!
I learned immediately in my Asian lifetime that the alleyways are most deceiving! From point A, go this direction and it’s sure to take you to point B. So it appears. Wrong!! Western linear thought has little place in Asia. (Which isn’t to deny or dismiss in particular Japan’s powers of logic and reasoning. And ingenuity. Not at all. Theirs is significantly more advanced than ours in the West.)
In Asia general, it’s all about abstract thought and visuals. “Walk until you see the Lawson (convenience store). Turn left. Walk until you see the raamen shop. Turn right. Go until you see the vegetable stand. Turn right and walk until you see a gray building with three windows on your left. That’s where I live.”
I miss that way of thinking, rich in abstracts and concepts, deeply and dearly.
So the sky, the sky of Shinjuku (as well as other metro centers of Japan) speaks of concrete and commerce.
At night, it screams entertainment and pleasures, the likes of which are never found in America. (Especially in our PC culture, they’d be run out of existence. For example, look what the libs are trying to do to McDonald’s for lord’s sake!!) Forbidden pleasures by our puritanical standards are the norm there. They may not be publicized or broadcast to the masses.
But ohhhhh, whatever’s your pleasure, it can be found! But you need to talk to the right people and those who know the subterranean culture that is Japan. Because you can bet your last dollar that the kinky club will be in some cave down those stairs in this building or up those stairs in that one or around some corner from some seemingly nameless hovel that you’d never know existed … until someone told you.
The night sky is rich in oranges, greens, blacks, yellows, reds, whites. The writing spread across it is kanji (the same characters of China). Sprinkled among the glyphs is the occasional English word or romaji (the modern alphabetized representations of the Japanese language). And brightly do those signs shine! Enticing passersby to come to the movies!Come to the izakaya (Japanese-style pub). Come to the cafe! Come to the clothing store.
When those regular businesses close and all that remains open is a plethora of clubs, some large but most small — some able to seat no more than 8 patrons at a time! — then that’s when the night sky burns hottest.
But those stars you won’t see in the vast sky above you. Or in the skyline. They’re tucked away in that subterranean underground — sometimes literally!
That’s how it goes there, you see. It’s not what you see that defines Japan (and Asia in general). It’s what you don’t see. Those activities and lives and goings-about, some for good and pleasure, some for ill-gotten gains and criminal activities — can anyone say yakuza (mafia) — they take place every day under the night sky of natural stars and the manmade neon stars.
Perhaps the stars, seen by but a few or a small crowd, not to be forgotten are those in the dark caves and clubs and hovels and hideouts that characterize Japan. They’re the “servers” at soap lands (where customers are ostensibly “bathed” but we all know they’re really centers of prostitution). Or the Japanese drummer pounding out “Stairway to Heaven.” Or the gaijin (foreigner) and Japanese, after two too many tokkuri (ceramic sake flasks) hanging off each other at the shoulders, crooning “Yesterday.” (The Japanese do love their Beatles!)
There’s a night sky that not everyone sees that spreads across Japan. A night sky so lush and luscious and sensual and adventurous and enticing and exciting and, yes, alive that it cannot be described or understood by most Westerners. They would judge. They would say that such places demean women. They would say that such places are morally and politically and worst of all personally offense and “damn it, I’m gonna sue and shut them down and make myself millions!”
So I leave you only with a simple thought: The night sky hold its secrets — and yours, if you reveal. Is there an absolutely trustworthy and better friend? People disappoint. They betray. They destroy trust. The night sky: never.