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TOKYO

Postcards by Jenna Matecki
Hanko by Hideki Arami

01

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Tokyo, you’re on purpose
It’s love at first sight, don’t you know
I see you through the brim of my clear umbrella
Even with the raindrops – 
I’ll receive you with two hands
You’re magic even though
You’re trying for perfect

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02

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It’s liberating to know,
There are millions of worlds that exist without you
That you’re only as special as how you feel

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03

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We happily poked at
Millions of vending machines
We visited Meiji Shrine (because all tourists must see Meiji Shrine)
And clapped and bowed like we knew what we were doing
We bit into onigiri triangles
And made funny faces at pickled plum surprises
We pointed out the cute
Little kids
Laughing and running between the doorways
We swapped notes about our
Reverse culture shock
And rambled on about how this giant, robotic city of Tokyo
Somehow results in a melting, unhardening,
Thoughts – the consistency of mochi –
We pawed at everything like cats in Shibuya
We yelled “kawaii” at all the manga
Everyone secretly watched us
The way introverts do
We played records from Japanese bands we didn’t know the names of
And lifted up the over-the-ear headphones
To exclaim to each other that the other needed to
Listen to this
1980s trio that somehow sounded like
Reggae
We witnessed the only tree in the entire city
With early sakura blossoms
In Saigōyama park
We had a few of those friend conversations
That last more than hours

You see,
Tokyo met us that day
In a place where we somehow both found
Ourselves
Living
At the same time

Electric chimes –
As the subway doors opened

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04

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We watched the tide of Tokyo bay
Seaweed floated back and forth on the surface
The sun found pockets between the grass
Golden mirrors bubbled back and forth, netted
Between chords of salt and air
I gestured at these weeds
That we happened upon at the seaside edge of
Hama-rikyu gardens
I had a hard time believing that such a sight
could exist
Breathtaking and green, I became happily lost
Before
He said,
“Looks tasty.”

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05

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I ran out of papers
To write my name and email on
I was so excited to meet all of you in
Omotesando
To the point where
My old plane ticket became
A business card
As I handed it away to a man who organizes Jazz festivals for a living
I fell back into my world - I remembered I was an outsider
I bullied myself into feeling that I didn’t belong,
Until he broke the static and said
“How fitting”

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06

 
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I wandered across the tatami mats inside
Gokoku-ji temple
Inhaling the incense, alone with my thoughts
I felt a peace, the kind of dark peace you get
When you’re warm inside while
It thunders outside
I found myself at times with no thoughts at all
In that way when you’re
Stepping around a sacred, safe place
The incense smelled like
Clean sheets
The lanterns cast
A cotton candy yellow
An old woman caught me on my way out, just
Past the sliding door
She spoke to me in Japanese
I responded by pointing towards the inside of the temple and saying “beautiful”
She said something else in Japanese
I said I was sorry, but I don’t speak Japanese
I watched the big wrinkles around her eyes,
Dimples as they formed on her cheek, she
Smiled and said something else
She was insistent on telling me so many things
I checked if I made some kind of gaijin mistake
She communicated that, no, I was good
But she chose to keep talking to me
Nodding, not gesturing, while speaking
The way a grandmother talks to you, holding
Your hand and
Espousing the kind of wisdom that comes from
Years and years of living on this strange planet
I was bemused that she took the time
To carefully share her thoughts even though
She knew I could listen but not understand
I just let myself
Watch her, as we both stood there in our socks,
Alone on the front porch of a temple
Her chatting and
I,
Listening,
As the march raindrops fell
In straight, vertical lines outside like
Japanese characters

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07

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The answer to how it’s going
Is that it’s happening
Around me
Every day
Intentional, thoughtful
Like a good friend
It’s looking
Like it’s clean
It’s sounding
Like it’s happy
… but not too happy
It’s going by
Way too fast
I just got here
But I’m already halfway through
I said “hi” and they responded with “yes”
Yes, in concentric circles
Yes, clockwise and counterclockwise
The future is brighter than yesterday
I’m here already, it’s my Thursday when it’s your Wednesday
The buildings have personalities and names
The people think before they say
There are pieces of citrus
In hot lemonade

Yes, I love how this city makes me feel
But yes,
“Yes,”
I also love the city itself –

A sea of lights under a
Full moon

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08

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To the man in the hat and the
Woman with glasses – 
Who looked up my writing and
Sent me an email saying that
You were rooting for me –

You gave me murky eyes,
The color of the
Green tea ice cream that you sell
And the comfort of a
Really good,
Knobbly sweater

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09

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A stone’s throw away from
My office here in Nakameguro
Is a gorgeous river
Shops along the river sell things,
People are happy to be walking around
Under the warmth of the sun
What I can’t process
Is that today is the anniversary of when
This entire city was bombed
Those who would have woken up in the
Morning and
Walked these neighborhood streets
On a sunny day, who would have examined the
Tiny buds on the trees at the riverbanks, ready for spring
Choked on smoke and
Jumped in that river,
Or we’re burned alive.
At least a hundred thousand people
Out of options
Gone, from a twisted,
Empty game
That others played
“Ghosts”
Is a word that isn’t loving enough for them
I know they’re responsible for the cherry blossoms coming back
Year after year
Pink reminders
That this world can be beautiful.
Kami in
Pressed shirts and shiny shoes
Whispering to us to
Stop and live for a moment
So that we can understand what it looks like
What this world looks like
What it can be like
When it is

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10

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“We speak the same language”
Doesn’t mean grammar
They’re shapes and sounds
Not rules and lines –
Unscripted, heartfelt, and sweet

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11

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You, my friend, are one of the influences
I will choose
I will gladly close down multiple soba shops
In your fine company,
Hear the stories behind your funny drawings,
And take it to heart when you show me how the
Japanese character for “woman”
Can also mean
“Female ninja”

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12 

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There is a commercial that
Is currently playing on the TVs inside
The Yamamote green line subway cars
Apparently I find it so funny
That I’m giggling in the same way about it when I’m asleep

It starts with a beautiful woman
Wearing lightning bolt earrings, a blue and white dress, and pink lipstick
She’s flanked by two creatures standing like club bouncers behind her
They have rounded ears and look like the
Result of a teddy bear and a bunny mating
One is blue and the other is yellow
The yellow one has a
Lightning bolt on its forehead and a
Electrical plug for a belly button

The beautiful woman announces something from
Right to left
She punches her two hands into the air in a V like a cheerleader
While a chorus of people wearing colorful clothing
Run on stage, cheering, whooping and hollering, a few of them
Are wearing tall chef’s hats?!

Then the beautiful woman holds up one index finger in front of her face
Then her other index finger
Next to it
She taps them together
And she,
Along with the bunnybears and townspeople
Start half hopping half bouncing towards the camera
They stomp in unison like broadway dancers
While holding one hand in an okay sign at their chins and an index finger against the middle of their foreheads

Then, the camera cuts to a man
In a little blue and yellow cap
That has a propeller spinner on top
He takes his two fingers and
As if guiding a plane upon landing
Jabs them diagonally towards the sky
Exuberantly yelling something
That we all must know

Then, we cut back to a close up shot of the beautiful woman
Who makes a blank face, her eyebrow is raised, her
Mouth falls slightly open – she looks at him horrified
The way a teenager watches a teacher describe
Sex ed

Then! Wait for it!

We see the group again
Our protagonist quickly becomes
Happy again
She
Along with the bunny bouncer bears,
West Side Story extras,
And the man in the spinner hat
Do their dance again
Bouncing and hopping
Cheesing,
Towards the camera
With their two index fingers now
Framing their gleeful faces
Before we see
The logo for
Tokyo Gas

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13

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As we walk along
There is no anchor to my
Floating feet
I laugh,
I think,
Unabandoned
We talk
Quick-witted, we pour
Word sugar onto the clean pavement at Ueno Kōen
I’m uncollected and shining
I become glimmering pieces
Around you

 
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14

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Now, you listen to me!
I will die very, very well when it’s my time,
Regardless of how you choose to do you, and
Regardless of what you say about me.

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15

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The sentences I noticed in
Curator Toyojiro Hida’s notes at the
Toshiko Okanoue, Photo Collage: The Miracle of Silence exhibit at the
Tokyo Metropolitan Teien Art Museum:

• “Toshiko Okanoue (1928 -), who achieved a meteor-like rise in the art world in the 1950s, when Japan was recovering from the war, was discovered by Shuzo Takiguchi, the leader of the surrealist movement in Japan, and let her peerless talents flower in the form of photo collages, using photography as her medium.”

• “Upon marrying however, Okanoue removed herself completely from creating art.”

• “It was a unique school whose ideal was educating highly sensitive, perceptive human beings.”

• “Encouraged by Takiguchi, who urged her to keep on creating her collages, she would often bring her newest collages and visit Takiguchi at his home in Hishi Ochiai, Tokyo.”

• “After that air raid, Okanoue, hoping that her classmates were safe, got on her bicycle and searched all over the Shibuya area, which had been turned into scorched earth.”

• “The postwar period… was to Okanoue, her youth, from her sensitive teens to the last moment of which she was still single.”

• “With Takiguchi’s encouragement, she began using a camera and producing straight photographs that addressed the subjects before her eyes.”

• “These women, freed after a period of constraint and oppression, apply their own volition and cool intelligence, interacting with curiosity with a new unexplored world, and trying to move forward…”

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16 

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The hail pebbles
Quietly dropping to the ground
Quietly tapping the window frames and the Minamiotsuka mailboxes
Quietly freezing into strands of my hair
Quietly touching my nose
And saying “you, dear.”

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17

I’m really glad you didn’t cut your hands
With the knife when you were
Trying to rescue our bottle of corked wine
I would have lamented knowing you all
For only such a short time

Here are my tickets from ANA
I promise there will be one that says return on it
I will book it in your names if
It’s allowed

I meant it when I accidentally said
See you tomorrow
Thank you all for loving me anyways even though
We just met and we have
No idea what tomorrow looks like

I promise
I will
Wayfind my way
Back to this place

So that instead of hugging
fresh cut flowers and a book as if they are
Stand-ins for thoughts of you

I can just hug you again
– even though you all are supremely awkward about hugs – 
And ask you how you’ve been

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18

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I will remember
How it took me a solid 30 minutes to find your shop
Underneath the Shibuya scramble
You grudgingly tried to pretend that I was giving you a hard time
Insisting that you were a craftsman and not an artist
How you read my piece about the old woman
And immediately grabbed your notebook like something hit you
I got that tingly feeling on the back of my neck
When you drew the lotus in flames with Tokyo written inside of it
Your obsession with R2D2
And admitting that I was right when I said that you are R2D2
The emails you sent me
About how you read all of my drafts and that you changed the design and that I would
“look forward to this hanko”
How when you and I
Passed a phone back and forth google translating our conversation
you stopped and said, in English, “let’s be friends”
How we both tried to not cry
When I gave you sakura branches and wagashi
And you gave me a hand-carved symbol of Tokyo
That had my name hidden
Inside the smallest feathers on the phoenix’s wing
How you packaged it all up and gave me
all the ink I needed to stamp it on the postcards
Red vermillion
On our cheeks and
On the paper that I mailed around the world
Red vermillion around our eyes
As we both bowed low at each other
Red vermillion
Underneath my fingernails
As I handed my boarding pass to the
Stewardess at the gate

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19

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Tokyo, こっちこっち...
I am missing absolutely everything about you

I tried to put you into my backpack side pocket
But a flower bloomed there instead

Thank you for being
The lightest key
I’ve ever owned
To a place that I can’t name –

It’s where the city cats go
When they’re done with their shifts


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… sugoi ne.

Thank you for reading about Tokyo. Where would you like to go next? Barcelona? Mexico City? Would you like a postcard? Do you have something to say? Or… we could tango…