The animals most often found in Tokyo are dogs and for some reason, when I see one, I sometimes feel compelled to mimic their barks. I try to hide myself from sight before I begin the exercise. The dog naturally gets excited and tries to locate the whereabouts of this other barking dog. Or rather, it's looking for the person stupid enough to do such a silly thing and wishes instead to punish me. But, whatever the case, they're unlikely to be successful as dogs in Tokyo are usually leashed or kept within fenced lots. I know this isn't something a person with good taste would do, being mischievous, knowing full well that the dogs can't retaliate.

Sometimes however, they do find a way of paying me back. I like cawing as well. One day, I saw a crow in a tree peering down at me, and our eyes met so I cawed to it. I continued to walk a few meters, passed under the tree, when I felt a strong impact on the top of my head. I caught a glimpse of the crow flying back up to the tree. I guess it did a touch-and-go. Perhaps it also used its stout bill. I wondered what would've happened if I hadn't been wearing my hat?

There are also pigeons in the city. One day, two of them visited me while I was drinking a glass of white wine, watching the water flow, on the banks of Tamagawa river. I had some bread beside the glass and bottle so I assumed it was not the wine but the bread that the pigeons were interested in. One was running ahead of the other, the second keeping a precise distance of half its body length from the first. They appeared to me to be the boss and his henchman. The boss would say something like, "hey mister, please give us our share, we know you've got some good stuff". Then the henchman would follow, "yes, my boss is absolutely right, he knows everything". I actually vocalised the conversation, playing two or three roles myself, making fun of them. I had a good time but I still didn't want to give them the bread. Instead, I gave some pieces to the sparrows who were hesitating shyly behind the pigeons.

Although they don't come to residential areas, there are also some egrets to be found in Tokyo. We spot them sometimes around the Tamagawa river and its tributaries, the Nogawa and Sengawa rivers. They are completely white and a little bigger than the crows which, in contrast, are all black. They never beg food from people or directly search in the rubbish. They seem to keep their distance from us. At the water's edge, or in shallow waters, they gaze into the surface, standing completely still, then pluck something from beneath the water.

I think it was more than ten years ago when an egret flew across my sightline. Tears suddenly fell from my eyes and they continued to fall for some time. I suppose it was this flash of whiteness that made me cry. At the time I was somewhat weak and vulnerable because of problems in my personal life and, for some reason, the white focused the emotion in me.

Each breed of animal found in Tokyo might have a different reason to live here but, regardless, I'm grateful for their presence and proximity to us. I hope they never view us as hopeless, choosing to go away, leaving us to ourselves.

As you can see, I'm surrounded by the wilds of nature, but I think the real wilderness is lurking beneath our feet in the form of a potential earthquake which lies completely outside of our control. When a very strong one hits it will be a disaster, to say the least, but I rarely hear people say "well, let's get out of Japan as it is such a dangerous place and move to somewhere safer where there are no earthquakes". For some reason the majority of us stay put despite our awareness of the big one's inevitable arrival and our fear of suffering. Of course, we take precautions to make our lives just that little bit safer, but it seems that we are ready to accept the final judgement made upon us by nature.

In the Great Hanshin Earthquake of 1995, some of my relatives were personally impacted by the event. Although none that lived very close to the epicenter of the earthquake were severely injured or died, they must have experienced intense fear and suffered serious inconvenience. Amongst them, there was a family who ran a liquor shop. All of the bottles in the shop were smashed to the floor, everything wasted. The combined smell of the contents of those bottles hung in the air for several weeks. When I heard this news, the first few words I uttered were, "ah...what a waste..." I think someone like myself should suffer in life at least once.

Toshimaru Nakamura, March, 2010




2010年3月 中村としまる


The sun had just risen, another Summer's day had begun. Temperatures were already as hot as midday because, I assumed, buildings and pavements held the heat from the previous day. Perhaps the heat had been held over since the city was first built and had placed its curse on me this morning?

I was taking a walk in Shizuoka city and found myself at a point in a park, a huge area that, according to the information board, was once the site of a castle built by a warrior in the Muromachi era and which later became a place of retirement for the first Edo Shogun, Ieyasu Tokugawa. The castle building had been torn down centuries ago but its curse still seemed to me to be tremendous. It was raining down in the form of the heat and the sound of cicadas. The noise was so intense that it made my ears itch. The sound of their voices were noticeably different from the ones in Tokyo. In the first few seconds their chirr sounded like "die die die". Not so as to plead my case that I would love to live a little longer, but just because I was curious and wanted to see some of these insects for myself, I looked up into the branches of one of the large trees looming overhead, but I could not see a single cicada. Although I had glimpses of a few of them as they flew away, I could not see a single one that was chanting. I tried searching in another tree, yet still could not find one. Meanwhile, I had been somewhat blinded by the glare of the morning sky and my neck had begun to ache, so I gave up. I started walking again, thinking that there was something I had missed, or simply did not understand. Cicadas were crying or screaming, or whatever, at the top of their voices, yet it seemed as though they did not want to be seen. If they needed to hide themselves from their enemies, they'd be better off keeping quiet. It made no sense to me. They wanted to be heard but not seen? Oh … hey yes, I see … I get it.

Toshimaru Nakamura, July, 2008


2008年7月 中村としまる