Thursday, August 29, 2013

natasha nakamura's diary


Spent the whole day lounging in beautiful Kiyosumi Garden in Koto-ku, part of the old Mitsubishi Estate. Carp and turtles swimming in the pond. A teahouse. A pavilion for moon-viewing. Stone lanterns. Moss spread out as a rug. I would die here if I could be sure of not causing a disturbance. 

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Homework consultation

natasha nakamura's diary


I went to Kappabashi to buy a kitchen knife. Japan makes the best knives in the world, drawing on the same skills used to make swords for the samurai.

I decided on a 12-inch-long beauty which a surgeon would be happy to work with. "Would you like your name on it?" asked the shopkeeper. 

"That would be nice," says I. "My name is Natasha Nakamura".

"I can easily inscribe the kanji for Nakamura, but as for your other name--Na Tah Sha?--I would have to use katakana, which with its tight curves are difficult to inscribe in steel, so I regret…"

"Just 'Nakamura' would be fine, thank you."

Such a beautiful knife.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Tokyo Station

natasha nakamura's diary

August 23

There has been an explosion of Japanese restaurants in New York and in Paris--over 200 in Paris, Naoko tells me. But they are just the fashion of the moment. Nobody seriously apprentices themselves to a Japanese restaurant in New York and the NY markets support Japanese restaurants only as an afterthought. I guess that I'd have to admit that one of the reasons I've moved back to Tokyo is the authenticity of the food.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Yes, and what color were you thinking of, sir?

natasha nakamura's diary

August 19

After the typhoon, a heavenly day. Clouds are a gift of nature. Perpetually clear blue skies would be as boring as perpetual smiles.

Tokyo bicycle manufacturers understand that brakes applied delicately should let off a small squeak like a whisper in the ear, to warn people walking ahead that a rider would like to pass. The sound of a bicycle bell is  too crude, too insistent.

It is rare to see a balcony without some flowers in the corner. They are not there to enrich the lives of the residents, but to give a little lift to passersby.

"Beverley Hills Polo Club" says a man's t-shirt. I wonder if there is such an entity and if so, why does this man so identify himself. Does he expect people to come up to him and introduce themselves as fellow polo enthusiasts?

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Tokyo is held together by wires.

natasha nakamura's diary

August 16

Some things have remained the same.

People still fan themselves with fold-up fans when they're hot. We still have our collapsible umbrellas, thank god, foreign un-collapsible umbrellas being too large to carry without a swagger. (I see that MUJI sells a collapsible bike, a fine idea.) Train stations still have tucked away somewhere a discreet little vase of flowers. There is still Pokari Sweat. The trains still give out super-polite announcements of the next station and which side the doors will open on, in a diction so soft to my foreign-language-tuned ears that it seems childish.  Women still hang cute little dangly things from their bags. They still paint their toenails gaudy colors but have taken to applying glitter to them--ugh. (Might as well apply glitter to their eyeballs.)

At any rate, it's good to be back. The apartment is small--just room for two chairs and a small table, but after all, small apartments are a lot easier to take care of, and the rent is cheaper than a reasonable place in either New York or Paris because apartments in those cities are larger than they have to be if all you use them for is for sleeping and a place to keep your clothes.  

Sunday, August 11, 2013

natasha nakamura's diary

August 12

Young men primp their spiky hairdos without embarrassment. Some dye their hair blond, afflict fanciful facial hair, have their eyebrows sculpted, and dangle things from their ears and noses. It is too easy to say this masculine concern for effect means Tokyo is culturally adrift, but the fall of Rome does come to mind.

Tokyo seems to have become a coffee-drinking city while I've been away, with all its Starbucks and Starbucks clones. Let us contemplate the difference between "tea-mind" and "coffee-mind".

It's going to take me a while to come to grips with this Roppongi Hills thing. It's as though some master planner plunked an aircraft carrier designed by Mies van der Rohe down into the middle of a familiar old Tokyo neighborhood. It's just too enormous for an intimate city like Tokyo. There are good things there, though, such as the fine restaurant called L'Atelier de Joel Robuchon, where no reservations are taken and everyone sits at the counter, so you can look right into the kitchen and keep an eye on things.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

natasha nakamura's diary

August 9

Some things have changed.

Is it just my imagination or have women's breasts grown larger? They are certainly more prominently featured in ads on the trains and on the covers of the titillating weeklies. There are more cafes, some even with a few seats outside. The new Odeo Line has clicked into gear: each station has its own design motif--there's nothing so splendid in NY or Paris, that's for sure. (My heart goes out to the poor souls who have to ride those rumbling, crumbling commuter trains from Greenwich to Grand Central.)

There is some fine graffiti now, as for instance under the Tokyu Line tracks from Yokohama to Sakuragicho. Grocery stores are stocking more spices and condiments from abroad and there seem more little shops selling things which foreigners would find "smart," such as well-designed kitchen implements. (I ran across a store in Harajuku that's nothing but chairs from all over the world, artfully arranged. It looks like a chair museum.)

Monday, August 5, 2013

natasha nakamura's diary

6 August 2013

Friends ask me why I've returned to Tokyo after two years in New York and a year in Paris. It's their way of starting a conversation. I know they aren't really interested in my reasons, even if I could tick them off. The simple fact is, I'm back because I'm more comfortable in Tokyo than I was in either NY or Paris. People who live in New York seem to feel they have to be living evidence that New York is cultural capital of the world, so they tend to talk too loud. It is a very alive city (just as a battlefield is alive), because everyone feels this is their chance to make it, but the buildings are too high and the streets too straight, which is confining, although nobody will admit it. I suppose I'll go back from time to time--great galleries, terrific theater--but I don't want to live that way. I just naturally suspect anyone who tries too hard to impress me.

Paris is a fine city, of course. Triumphant architecture, a lyrical language, sharp people with character and wit, and lots of cafes for talking and reading and writing. But Paris is awfully small (every city is small compared to Tokyo…) and after a while the sweep of the  architecture at every turn becomes oppressive. In Paris, nothing ever happens by accident, although sometimes people pretend it does. And the French have their own brand of arrogance, more sophisticated and so more provocative than down-home American arrogance, but still tiring in its demand for attention.

So: back to Tokyo, Can't be blamed for wanting to come home, at least for a while.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Thursday, August 1, 2013