Riding with Cigarettes in the Rain

I love how people ride bikes here, with a clear combini umbrella in one hand and a handlebar under the other. A rider I saw yesterday was a lean gentleman in a black suit, pedalling upright in his seat, an umbrella in his left hand and a cigarette in his right.

I’m sitting under a small stone shelter on Hibiya Dori. It’s raining, and businessmen and women are hurrying past under their umbrellas. To my right are big construction cranes, black taxis with frantic windscreen wipers and silver rearview mirrors. The buildings are big — brick, glass and steel — and from here, the pink and orange street signs look stoic. Under the blanket of rain, the hustle and bustle of the city is calming. Always one to charge forward, I hadn’t realised how overwhelming the new streets of Tokyo had felt until this moment. I drink this stolen peace in and let my eyes wander.

On my left are the Imperial Gardens, with a moat lapping against its toes. An old wooden bridge is arching its back as it relishes the quiet rain, and indolent trees are leaning over the large stone walls that fold around the greenery. Surrounded by foliage and falling water, I see my grandmother’s garden in Sri Lanka in my mind’s eye for a brief moment before I’m back in the big city again.

There’s a swan floating in the water. It keeps giving me mournful looks, wondering why I’m not flicking him a treat from my pockets. Crisp plastic from a Lawson onigiri crinkles guiltily against one of the seams of my jeans.

An old groundsman calls affectionately to the swan in words I can’t hear and soon, they are both sharing lunch. Across from me, a gentleman is perched under an identical shelter to mine, legs crossed with a slim cigarette between his fingers.

I scribble what I’m seeing into my black baby Moleskine, and pull the brown, woven bookmark tenderly so it can sit beside the new ink. Japan is the sixth country I’ve lived in but it is the first one I have chosen. I am 14 pages, 2 red shrine stamps and 3 sketches into my new TCK home.