Tokyo Diary

An Alternative Childhood

April 5, 2013

After a couple of rainy days, when the sun’s finally showing up again, Tokyo seems to sigh with a relief. The heavy wind with its lost and straying umbrellas is gone, the dark clouds are now causing trouble elsewhere. Hopefully far, far away. When you open your window in the early morning and feel a warm breeze, hear the birds chirp and see the clear blue sky above the ruby colored rooftops of the other houses, you remember why you fell in love with this city after all.

I’m living in Tokyo for exactly one month now. After I spent the summer of 2012 here, with a few side-trips to Kyoto, Osaka and Tottori, I wanted to come back. For a longer term. I found a nice residence in Setagaya, the ward with Tokyo’s largest population and second largest area. My neighbors are an always humping Spanish couple and a guy who loves junk food.

I had to deliver the rent for my apartment to my landlord and it was the first sunny and warm day in April. So I took the chance to ignore the train and went for a walk trough the small streets of my vicinity. Some cats were prowling around the trees, a few kids on skateboards were passing by. And an elderly woman, pouring some flowers on a short wall, smiled gently.

Soon after the beginning of my ramble, I turned into a small avenue and in this moment my eyes spotted everything I love about this country in one immortal, still standing picture. Cherry blossoms were sailing down a bright pink tree, three students with some soft drinks in their hands stood in front of an admirable red shrine in their blue school uniforms.

Surrounded by small little houses, rusty bicycles and cute, green pot plants. It almost seemed as if some kind of supernatural artist wanted to put as many stereotypes and colorful details as possible in his current masterpiece. I was verging on tears. Which was perhaps down to the fact that I’m kind of allergic to cherry blossoms. And stereotypes.

While Yoko Kanno was filling up my head with an idyllic and melodic track, which always reminds me of an alternative perfect retro future, I asked myself, how my life would have looked like, if I had grown up here instead of Germany. In this neighborhood, with these people, influenced by this culture. Perhaps in this pretty house, right next to me. Now.

What kinds of friends would I have had? Would I have been a school system rebel or one of those allegedly soulless career types? Look, it’s Maseru, the Otaku. The heartbreaker. The dishwasher. The president. The globetrotter. The husband. The derelict. The criminal. The girl. The dead one. The one, who had sex with this j-pop idol once and is now a tv host.

I’m one of these strange people who were heavily influenced by an unrealistic impression of Japanese youth culture. Where school was just a place for you and your friends to prepare for battles against an evil supremacy in your shiny robot mechas. And there’s this redheaded tomboy chick who finally fells in love with you and your always hungry best pal and that shy girl with her talking pet. So, now I’m here. Where’s my redhead chick and my super mecha? Hello?

Whenever I talk to one of my Japanese friends about my admiration for this country, they treat me with incomprehension. They are bored of Tokyo, while some foreigners would die to be in this magical metropolis. Some of them are obsessed of Europe. But it seems logical. Both sides are bored of their everyday environment. Only the new holds magic after all.

When I got to my senses a few minutes after I turned into the small avenue, standing there like an idiot, I finally moved on. But I couldn’t get rid of this feeling and these thoughts. What would my alternative childhood and my consequential life have had looked like? Perhaps there’s another Marcel somewhere. In an alternative reality. Far, far away. And I hope he’s hanging around with redheaded tomboy chicks, always hungry best pals – and shiny robot mechas.



MEW is married to Scarlett Johansson in his dreams and a MacBook in real life. His big love is Tokyo, the colorful and loud metropolis in the far east. Because every single moment spent in Harajuku, Shibuya and Shimokitazawa is a great one.

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