2:20 a.m., can’t sleep, I’m always restless the night before a flight and it is my last night in Tokyo.
Get up, get dressed and start to roam the streets around my downtown Tokyo hotel. The lights are all out on the nearby World Trade Centre Building, the only businesses open are late night hole-in-the-wall eateries, a bar, nearby massage parlours and a strip club.
Only signs of humanity are the a handful of straggling and stumbling black-suited salarymen of Tokyo, disheveled and drunk. One sits on a low concrete pillar. Collar open, tie twisted to the side, he sits, eyes closed, brief case in on hand. Just five hours before, both sides of the streets were bursting and teeming with the hard-working, black-suited salarymen and women of nearby Tokyo offices. Laughing, smiling, they were releasing stresses and energy from a day of hard work. Away from their families and friends, they cavort, laugh and talk loudly freely on the sidewalks and patios.
Now, only five of them are left, another eats late night McDonald’s, briefcase between his legs as he sits on a step. Another, at a nearby outdoor counter, drinks a canned beer he scored for 300 Yen from a nearby vending machine.
I walk. Take in the colourful signs and written words I cannot read. Each word looks like a piece of art and is a mystery. This city and country are still a mystery even after two weeks of travel within it. We may have pulled back the veil a bit, and had a taste and peek at this wonderful society and its people but we are far from truly understanding it.
Cabs zoom by as I turn to head back. I walk by a taxi stand, the three cab drivers are standing outside of their vehicles, in the nearby designated smoking area. Even at this hour, when municipal bylaw officials have long retired for the night, the three drivers still stand in the six by 10 foot area people are allowed to smoke in on this block in public.
I walk back to the hotel and look down the street, the ancient massive gate of the Zojoji Temple sits at its end, stalwart, imposing and strong. The usually bright and tacky Tokyo Tower that screams up to the sky behind it, now sits dark too. Only a red light at its tip now glows.
It is lights out Tokyo and lights out on this trip too.