The familiarity of the Seven-Eleven convenience store only one-block away was strangely comforting in this foreign place. I grabbed a candy bar and a soda for dinner while suspiciously inspecting the sushi that sat near the register like a pack of gum. Finding a creature comfort like this was like having a family member to greet you each night. It’s strange how these little reminders of home can ease the hollow of uncertainty and loneliness. The cashier didn’t speak English, and I fumbled through my wallet trying to get him the correct change.
All images courtesy Takadanobada Kurazawa
As I made my way home, I took in the surreal nature of this experience. The street lights dimly lit my path as I stealthily tried to catch a glimpse in the small windows of the homes that lined it. I wondered what these people did in their free-time and if it remotely resembled the home I knew. I wondered if they sat around the dinner table at night, retelling the events of their day, relating to one another in the regular way. I wondered if they loved their children the same way that my parents did. I wondered what their daily routine looked and felt like. I yearned to find my place in the bigger picture; I was quietly begging for the ties to my family, my home. Somehow the flickering lights in these windows possessed a human element that found their way into my solitary heart and brought a sense of commonality and belonging.
I climbed the long cement stairway that led to my new home. The tiny door creaked as I pushed it open. Fumbling for a light switch, I made my way down the dark and narrow hallway and into my apartment. My roommate would arrive the next morning and I was happy that I would have a friend. I sat on the worn couch savoring the candy bar that would serve as dinner that night. A stack of video tapes was positioned neatly below the television in front of me. It was my lucky night! There were 3 old “Friends” episodes left there from a previous homesick model. I put one in the player and relished the last of my creature comforts for the night as I laughed and cried myself to sleep.
Image, courtesy Takadanobada Kurazawa
Morning came quickly through the single slatted window and I wrestled my way out of bed to get ready for the day. The dingy 5 foot square bathroom space consisted of a sink, toilet and shower. The shower head protruded from the wall with no curtain or barrier for the water, much like a campground. It sprayed wildly about the room and drenched everything in its path. The grime and age of this apartment would necessitate flip-flops on every occasion–including showering. I hurried and got ready knowing Ricky, my driver, would be there at any moment to pick me up. My hair fell limply into place as I battled the air thick with humidity and pollution.
“We are going to the airport to get your roommate,” Ricky announced as I piled in the van that would shuttle me about the city.
“Her name is Jackie and she is from Canada,” he continued. I was born in Canada myself and had a certain affinity for my fellow Canadians.
As we bumbled about I took notice of the ambient city of Tokyo. The salty smells and ancient culture were so different than anything I had experienced in my short 18 years. Modern skyscrapers melded with neon infused nightclubs. Sanctifying parks and shrines sat opposite to bustling city streets and a massive sea of ink colored hair. Polite subservience and an air of duty coexisted with youthful rebellion and experimentation. An air of energy and excitement lingered with coldness and formality. This was Tokyo in its full regalia and I was her guest.
Image, courtesy Takadanobada Kurazawa
The van lurched to a stop in front of the airport. I gazed out the window at the tall and slender frame before me. Jackie was 16 with long, wavy, chestnut colored hair and pale skin. She had girlish features and big, bright eyes that were framed by kind brows. Ricky greeted her and took her bag as she climbed into the van. I liked her simplicity.
“I’m Jackie,” she said with a nervous smile on her face.
I introduced myself and she situated herself in the van as Ricky sped off to pick up the rest of the girls from the agency. Our day was packed full of go-sees and we didn’t have a minute to waste!
Read previous “Memoirs of a Run-away Model” entries.