This is a place where I don’t feel alone, this is a place where I feel at home 

japan_tokyo_shimbashi-station_food-stalls_43725 a.m. I found myself unable to sleep in a business hotel of the Minami-Ku district of Toyko, so I thought to walk.

Of course referring to it this way is misleading. The set up: the suggestion that I travel professionally, and could call out districts in Tokyo by name is absurd. I rely wholely on my husband, who just yesterday answered a friend’s question by calling on our hotel by name and location. He said this in Japanese, and then translated for me, because he is a Japanese man.

But that doesn’t make this locale any more unknown, and I’m pretty proud of myself for waking too early and taking to the streets. In jeans and an unadorned face I left a silent lobby – taking pains (and because I was hungry, pangs!) to follow the path of my husband from when we first arrived. I took escalators down into the subways underbelly, using as lifelines the still closed shops I saw the day prior. Shops as small as a bathroom – shops with logos in minimalist paisley fonts, and absolute French names, “Le Petite Monseur”, “Rue d’ Arc”, that sat sandwiched between ticket vending machines and early to open- late to close ramen shops. They’d look like an afterthought if not for the slight slice of light breaking through the closed curtain fitted against the door frame. To look in was a show in itself, a key hole diharama of perfectly placed pencil holders and lace outfitted hand bags. The pretty positioning of merchandise – the unabashed need to be seen as something so French – had all the hallmarks of forethought. Somehow this shop, in many different iterations – of different names and with varying doorways – seemed to be everywhere.

You can get lost in this dawnbreak window shopping. And I did, so much so that when I turned around the subway grew. What was two men in short sleeve white oxford shirts, racing escalators when I first left had grown into a militia of salary men and women! The steady stream of determined faces blanked past me at dizzying speed. With few exceptions I saw man after man after woman, stony faced, moving mechanically toward some turnstile – some running, others progressing rank-in-file. Because I’d returned to trace my steps I was one of very few walking opposite this mass. (More …)