A city becomes,
in time, a map overlaid
with hopes and losses


Photo by Caroline Hutchinson


ShutUp30.9: What Catches Your Eye


The prompt today was to write about a well-known room from memory. Here’s my living room.

This room is self-centred, speaking of habitual solitude. The tatami matting floor is  traditional yet somewhat outdated in today’s Tokyo. A well-worn laptop perches on a low table, the snaking cable a sure sign that this is a kotatsu – a heated table. The table, and the floor around it, are covered with slews of paper. If we zoom in, we can see that they’re about 70% English to 30% Japanese. In the corner, a lazily half-folded coil of futon rests before being pressed into duty again.

The room is light, all and lively pastels, with a big glass sliding door along one side. A small bookcase skulks in one corner, “The Conquest of Ainu Lands” rubbing shoulders with “Understanding Comics”. The rest of this life must be contained behind the wall of paper doors. What we can see suggests that it is disorderly.

ShutUp30.4: Choose Your Own Adventure


Today’s prompt was to choose a setting, character and emotion, and write for 15 minutes

Today was the day: the big presentation at work. Genta had been working on it all night, forming his increasingly rubbery lips around the strange English words, and trying to say them like he meant them. He barely noticed the glances others gave him as he reached for the overhead rail and pulled himself between the packed bodies of the delayed 7:13 Sobu rapid to Tokyo station.

The doors closed on his briefcase, halted, then continued closing until they hit his pointy crocodile-skin shoes. The carriage, as one, breathed in. Genta spread himself flat against the neighbouring bodies, and finally the doors shut.

Tsk! said someone.

Good morning everyone, said Genta’s internal practice reel. Welcome to Tokyo Dynamics. It’s my pleasure to introduce you to – to you? – you too…?

A peculiar and somewhat primal sensation had been gradually dawning on Genta. This was that the hand holding his briefcase – his hand – was pinned against something soft and warm, desirable yet somehow chary of his touch. He didn’t dare look, so he looked the other way for some kind of relief. To his right, a woman was tottering about on heels as the carriage braked and cornered, somehow imprisoned in the blind spot between handrails.

He drew breath, the air a cacophony of lilacs, vanillas and roses. Not a single note of morning Asahi, nary a hint of breakfast ramen, no eau de sweaty bald head. Something was seriously amiss.

There were an awful lot of women on the train this morning, thought Genta. A lot more than he normally saw when he got on at the middle of the platform. But today he’d walked down to the very end in hopes that it would be emptier.

And this is where he’d found himself. In the women-only carriage. Tsk!

His mind raced. He was too imprisoned by flesh to move in any meaningfully remedial sense. He toyed with the idea of apologising to the lady with the, the softness, but that would involve acknowledgement of their predicament, and at any rate, what actual words could you actually say?

After evaluating his options, it seemed that there really was only one thing that he could do. He pushed his shoulders back imperceptibly, steeled himself, and, to save the lady’s honour, pretended to be asleep.