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  • Tokyo1
  • Yi Sang

The “Marunouchi Building”—more commonly referred to as Marubiru—I had envisioned was a magnificent affair, at least four times larger than this “Marubiru.”2 If I go to New York’s “Broadway,” I might suffer the same disillusionment. At any rate, ‘This city reeks of “gasoline!”’ is my first impression of Tokyo.

People like us whose lungs are unsound, first of all, are not qualified to live in this city. Whether closed or opened, my mouth is immediately permeated with the smell of “gasoline,” so no matter what food I am eating I cannot avoid at least some taste of “gasoline.” Therefore, the body odor of Tokyo’s citizens shall come to resemble that of automobiles.

In this “building” village known as “Marunouchi,” other than the “buildings” there are no residents. Automobiles have taken the place of dress shoes. Those people who do walk are sacred philosophers looking askance at the fin de siècle and modern capitalism—all others come and go with at least automobiles for footwear. [End Page 339]

But I absurdly paced this village for a full five minutes. After which I too had no choice but sensibly to hail a “taxi.”

Inside the “taxi,” I researched the topic of the 20th century. Outside the window, now beside the Imperial Palace moat, countless automobiles clamor to perpetuate the 20th century. Since my morality, reeking of the musty stench of the 19th century, cannot comprehend why there are so many automobiles, it was, in the end, extremely dignified.

Shinjuku has a Shinjukuesque character. Extravagance like walking on thin ice—at “French Mansion” we had a cup of “coffee” that had already been mixed with milk, and then, when each of us paid 10 sen, it somehow felt as if 5 rin were greater than 9 sen and 5 rin.3

“Werther”—the citizens of Tokyo write France as HURANSU. ERUTERU, as I remember it, is the name of the person who had the most delectable love affair in the world, so “Werther” is not the least bit pitiable.4

Shinjuku—the chimerical prosperity of 3-chome—beyond it are wooden fences and unsold plots and signs saying don’t urinate, and, also, of course, some houses. [End Page 340]

Mr. C first takes me, tired as if I could die, to the Tsukiji Little Theater. The theater is presently closed. This headquarters of Japan’s New Theater Movement, plastered with all sorts of “posters,” to my eyes resembled a poorly designed café. But even though I suffered the regret of foregoing cheap movies, I did occasionally visit this small theater, placing me among the elite drama aficionados.

Quite contrary to Mr. C, who claims “Drama is more interesting than life,” Mr. H is a skeptic. “Apartments”—Mr. H’s room costs 16 yen in the winter, 14 yen in the summer, and 15 yen in the spring and fall. Regarding such calculations, fickle as a turtledove, his skepticism and scorn run deep and wide. I requested, citing my rather serious forgetfulness, a room that did not display such a talent for fluctuating according to season, to which the servant girl consoles me by saying that a yokel like me also displayed considerable talent by coming to such a faraway place all by himself. I in turn console her by remarking that the wart dangling from her left nostril must certainly be a symbol of her good fortune, after which I added that if I could clearly see Mt. Fuji just one time I would have no further desires.

The following day, at 7 in the morning, there was an earthquake. I opened the window and looked out over quivering Great Tokyo; all was covered in a yellow light. The “servant” girl5 urged me to look at Mt. Fuji, which, in the clear sky beyond the city, pathetic as a toy cake, has exposed its half-bald head.

The Ginza is a mere textbook on vanity. If you don’t walk here, it’s as if you lose your right to vote. When women buy new dress shoes, before riding in automobiles, they must first tread upon the Ginza’s sidewalks. [End...


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pp. 339-344
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