6. These Neighbouring Tokyo Homes
(the owners of which are reaching fever pitch with one another)
Deep in the Tsukishima District of Chūō, Tokyo are nestled two homes representative of two very different eras, neither of which I’ve ever spent a single night in. The Edo period nagaya building of Utagawa Takahashi and the more modern, tiled townhouse of famed musician and composer, Yoshikazu Haru.
Yoshikazu-San was on Cloud Nine with his purchase of a small plot of Tsukishima land in the late 1990s, how could he not be? The area was abuzz with people and restaurants serving monjayaki. His plot was even right next door to one of the few remaining nagaya houses built when the reclaimed land of the district was still known as Tsukuda Island. Charming.
Mr. Yoshikazu thought it couldn’t get any better… until construction began and a certain Utagawa-San came to see. Mr. Utagawa lived in the house next door on the upper-level. The lower level, Yoshikazu learned, was his neighbour’s ramen shop. This information brought forth a commonality to talk about, you see, Yoshikazu was also going to be working in the ground floor of his home.
Utagawa was fine with this, conceptually, until he saw (and heard) what this entailed. Upon the tour of the instrument-filled room he was initially excited but not after having to repeatedly explain to his customers the constant noise coming from the adjacent home.
Eventually, Mr. Yoshikazu started to settle into his house and things were, I suppose you could say, pleasant. However, he soon found he had made a mistake by setting up his home studio in the street-facing, downstairs bedroom. You see for some strange reason Utagawa refused to sell drinks in his ramen shop, instead advising his customers of the recently erected vending machine (that blocked his neighbour’s studio window). This constant foot traffic sent Yoshikazu into a spin.
In Yoshikazu’s eyes, it was bad enough that the mayor of the Chūō Ward had approved these machines in residential areas, but when he suggested that it be moved in front of the house next door he was informed that would it block ‘the view of an important heritage building’.
If he wasn’t so mad, Yoshikazu would’ve laughed, heritage was not the word he’d apply to the dilapidated soup store. Condemned would be more accurate. How customers could eat in there was anyone’s guess. The awnings were ripped, dusty and ancient. The signs were illuminated by long extension cords, fully exposed to the elements. Why, the house itself looked like it could topple over at any minute!
And inside? Rolls of flypaper were stuck above the dining area and kitchen… all overpopulated. The bowls looked filthy, the tables were stained and the curtains were ripped. The place was falling apart.
Day and night, there were queues of people down past Yoshikazu-San’s home. When he went outside to check why they weren’t queuing in front of Utagawa’s ramen shop he found that his beloved neighbour had put out a little yellow sign. It read ‘To preserve the view of this heritage building please queue in this direction’ then displayed an arrow pointing past the composers’ home.
Well, with all the constant bickering that has followed since, I’m quite happy that I’ve never lived in either of these homes. To tell you the truth, even if asked, I might have to decline lest I wish to become mediator in a perennial quarrel.
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