Mizu stood by the peculiar love-hotel and looked up at its two signs, “shukuhaku” and “kyukei” which meant stay and rest. She had received none of the two. This 2000 yen-per-hour hotel was her makeshift service apartment for a month. Now, she stood by it with her new compact suitcase and had resolutely given up on Tokyo.
The flashy white and purple lights of the Casablanca hurled her back to Osaka when the first ever Love Hotel was opened up for men and women. In the tizzy of the post-war period in 1968, Mizu eagerly saw young lovers emerging from the hotel’s doors every two hours and the surrounding pink lights looked much like the Somei Yoshino, the most in bloom of all cherry blossoms in Japan.
Now, the Casablanca bore such an affectation, as if it were cornered by stage lights – as if it were all an act – the pledge of love, her dismal job and the city that changed with every withering cherry blossom.
It was three in the morning, but the city outside was in complete negligence of the day’s strain. It wriggled and moved as if it were programmed by some insomniac genius. Mizu’s flight was to take off at 8 am and she did have a few hours to bid adieu to Tokyo.
She walked over to the warm and comforting Mutekiya which had become her post-midnight dinning spot. She believed that they made the most wholesome ramen in the whole of Tokyo.
When she reached the restaurant, she saw that some half-starved women had taken up a few seats, but they were far from being Japanese. They didn’t even eat their ramen with chopsticks. Toshima City was the most international ward in Tokyo, even if you kept out all foreigners.
Mizu waited for her regular meal – “the number 1 special” – which had been quite predictable like the many nuances of her life. But no, this was the last time, she was leaving Tokyo and for good.
In about 20 minutes, her ramen bowl arrived, with its rich char siu, succulent meat and delicate noodles – it was the only bowl of food that would bring her back to the city years later. She sat atop the lonesome stool and ate in a solitude that she reveled in. She savored every bit of the thick broth that soaked in all her wavering thoughts. This bowl had granted Mizu many moments of comfort on days when she would return home completely drained from her day’s job. It plodded her towards the promise that any metropolitan city granted its inmates – of a life where one is too preoccupied to worry about one’s own circumstance.
When Mizu was done with her meal, the sun had finally maneuvered its way past Toshima City’s white and blue edifice. Mizu paid for her ramen, grabbed her suitcase by its handle and left Mutekiya without any celebratory goodbye. She walked past many stores that were already opening up and took a turn that would lead straight to K Books. There she purchased The Pillow Book, her 11th copy, the one that she was determined to complete this time.
Mizu left the bookstore, walked past the crowd that had already graced the pavement and got into a yellow cab. She took one last glance at Toshima City and headed onward to the Tokyo Haneda International Airport…
Find out where Mizu lands in the next post 🙂