Tokyo, Japan: Night cries

 |   |  1 min read

Tokyo, Japan: Night cries

The sound of a baby crying in the night is a terrifying thing. The screams go on and on, no one seems to be taking care of it, you look out your window into the darkness but cannot see where the cries are coming from. You feel helpless.

My ryokan in Shin-Nakano, a suburb to the west of central Tokyo was perfect -- except at night when I heard the baby crying.

Tokyo may be a metropolis but it is also a city of linked villages. Shin-Nakano on the Marunouchi Line was one such village, a charming little place where every night gentle jazz played through small speakers in the otherwise quiet main street.

After a day of business or schlepping around glitzy Shinjuku I'd take the commuter train back to Shin-Nakano and amble the streets to the sound of Dave Brubeck, past the condom, cigarette and coffee vending machines, back to my ryokan where Eisuke-san would be waiting behind his desk to greet me as I removed my shoes.

Eisuke-san was a charming man with tiny spectacles which he looked over but never through. Some afternoons he would invite me to take tea with him and we would sit and talk in his dark office, despite an impenetrable language barrier.

One day I tried asking about the baby, mimicking the sound I had heard, but he just laughed. Clearly I had said something very funny, and he laughed even louder when I made cradling gestures.

But generally it was much smiling, many gestures, and a long 15 minutes.

One beautiful clear morning he asked where I was going and I told him I was headed for picturesque Nikko in the hills to see the temples. He shook his head with great alarm.

"No, No. Coal come. Coal come," he said urgently and pointed at my shirt. I went back to my room and got a jacket. He nodded and smiled as I left under clear blue skies which, by noon, had turned grey.

At Nikko in the late afternoon I was forced to take refuge from the bitter cold rain in a noodle bar for something hot and steamy to go with the reviving sake.

As I walked the streets of Shin-Nakano that evening I was thinking of what to say to Eisuke-san and by the time I reached the door I had memorised a few phrases of gratitude.

Then I heard the baby crying.

Sitting on the roof directly above my room was a crow the size of an albatross, screeching into the late afternoon.

Eisuke-san was mystified when, soaking wet and laughing loudly, I squelched into his dark foyer.

That night I slept through the cries. Almost.

Share It

Your Comments

post a comment

More from this section   Travels articles index

Austin, Texas: The dream deferred

Austin, Texas: The dream deferred

For a sensitive, gay New York Jew he sure picked a helluva place to live: Texas, the home of rednecks, Stetsons, and chicken-fried steak, that peculiar delicacy which is a perfectly good piece of... > Read more

British Columbia's Sunshine Coast: Under the endless blue

British Columbia's Sunshine Coast: Under the endless blue

Paul shoves the cap of his beer bottle into his jacket pocket and settles deeper into the wooden chair. "You know what I say to people who come here and find we don't have television in the... > Read more

Elsewhere at Elsewhere

Paul Bley Quintet: Barrage (ESP-Disk)

Paul Bley Quintet: Barrage (ESP-Disk)

Recorded in one night in October '64 for the seminal free jazz label ESP-Disk (and initially re-presented in 2008 as part of their reissue programme), this selection of six pieces written by Carla... > Read more

Barbecued Duck Breasts

Barbecued Duck Breasts

These days I, like most people, can toss together a very serviceable and reasonably impressive red curry with duck in just a matter of minutes. It helps when you have a shop selling cooked duck... > Read more