In a departure from our usual somber posting, I’ve written an original prose-poem, which is for a friend’s upcoming “Where is the Romance” theme party in Tokyo–a pre-valentines’s day event. I’ve been in Japan (not just Tokyo) for over twenty years now and it seems to me that this city as overpopulated as it is, is also a very lonely place. I’ve heard more dating horror stories than any man should hear in his entire life. If Hong Kong is the graveyard of marriages–Tokyo is where the infanticide of them is widely practiced–and marriages, when they happen, seem to last as long as the cherry blossoms or linger on, liked fish being dried in the sun. Of course, this also a city where fake marriages run 3,000 dollars for foreign women wanting to work in the entertainment industry, and gay men marry women to maintain appearances, and marriage fraud schemes are a semi-institutionalized crime.
I should say that I’m parodying one well-known author/poet with this masterpiece and whoever figures out who it is gets a pack of dried umeboshi and honorable mention on this humble blog. Hopefully, those of you familiar with Tokyo will get some of the subtler references. By the way, remember on Valentine’s Day in Japan–the women buy chocolate for the men.
“Where is the romance?”
A “hard-boiled” meditation on dating in Japan
by Jake Adelstein, author of “WHY WOMEN SHOULD PAY FOR DINNER: A GUIDE TO COURTSHIP IN JAPAN”
—3rd version, 2010 for EH.
Where is the romance?
Does it even live in this city?
Can the dead really know it–
can it be found in the shadows
of this glittering necropolis?
For Tokyo is a ghost town
crowded and overflowing with
A billion spirits
but are never seen
but are not felt,
but are not heard
and yet hear
but do not listen.
Maybe, it once was here.
Urban legends say
it’s buried in a coin locker in Shibuya station
but the key lies somewhere in the tracks of the Chuo line
and those that look for it
rarely come back
It’s certainly not in your computer
waiting to be found
or in your cell-phone
just one more twitter away
it does not live in a virtual environment
or in the love hotel where you stay
it might have been
on that train you rushed to catch
but just missed instead
or in the person
who you might have given your seat
if you had just been a little less tired
maybe at the yoga class
you keep meaning to go to,
if work didn’t always runs late.
rumors of its existence
persist nonetheless, like tobacco stains on teeth
there were eyewitness sightings
but they proved to be misleading.
traces of it in fancy dinners
that were really just about breeding
invitations of “hey, come over to my place and listen to music”
always make sure to keep it far away
and men who want to split the check
make sure it never stays
romance in the realm of hungry ghosts
is a hard thing
and corporeal existence
while it can be bought at the door
is no guarantee of locating it–
and even when found,
it only lasts until your wallet
is as empty as the experience.
ethereal, fleeting, legendary
where is the romance?
It is as elusive as the Japanese wolf
long believed to have been hunted
never to return.
If you find it,
somewhere hidden between ambition
compromise, opportunity, and commitment
consider yourself fortunate, my friend
hold it gently, treat it well,
you are unlikely to catch it again.