Part 12: Madame Tokyo
I sat uncomfortably upright in my coach seat and geared up for the 11 hour journey from Milan to Tokyo. The prospect of going to Asia was both exciting and daunting. An unexpected surprise was about to be revealed behind a massive game show curtain, yet I was still reeling from the events of the previous 10 weeks in Milan. I questioned my agent’s reasoning for sending me to Tokyo for far too brief a moment before brushing the concern aside. In my childlike dependence, I was relieved to put my fate in their hands and refused to accept any responsibility for my life. The plane engines roared and the repetitive rattles and vibrations lulled my racing mind into a trance-like state as we made our way across the Mediterranean Sea.
Images of the last few months made their way into my thoughts. My heart ached deeply. I felt lost and alone in the world. I could no longer remember who I was. My body was fatigued from the constant stress of frivolous worry and exterior critique. I had stayed up far too late for nights on end while mind-numbing beats and substances paraded my being. I was diminished by the cold and harsh people the business had brought into my life. Clouded in a dream-like state, these realizations intoxicated my every cell. Then, my memory like an angel to my rescue, remembered. I longed for the comforts of my childhood home on Myrtle Street. I longed for the salty burnt edges of my mother’s roast beef and hand whipped mashed potatoes on Sunday afternoon. I longed for my cherished piano and the medium of personal expression it provided. I longed for the warm sun on my face as I sat enveloped in the family room couch and my mother’s conversation. Most of all, I longed for the gentle safety and structure of the Mormon faith that I knew; it was peaceful and inviting. But it was not to be. The wheels screeched and the jet trembled as we touched down in the once imperial capital of Tokyo.
“Lost in Translation”, by HitThatSwitch
There were people everywhere–35 million to be exact–each of them indistinguishable to my untrained eye and I was most certainly the only blonde in the bunch. The agency had sent a driver to pick me up in a Volkswagon van that would be my mode of transportation for the duration of my stay. “Hello, my name is Wicky,” he said. “Ricky?” I asked. “Yes, Wicky,” he said. From then on this would be his defining characteristic in my young mind. Ricky was tall and skinny with pointed features. His demeanor was like that of a brother and I was grateful because I would spend a lot of time with him as he chauffered me around the city. Unlike Milan, I would require constant assistance because of the more difficult language and alphabet.
We arrived at my new apartment in the Shibuya district, an area popular for eating and shopping amongst the younger crowd. Although situated in a decent yet crowded residential area, the 5 story complex was dingy and depressing and the air was overcast with pollution. There was not a tree or blade of grass in sight and I would have to adjust to the concrete that surrounded me on all sides. Anxious to unload after a long flight, I hauled my bag up the 3 flights of stairs and opened the door to my new place. It was approximately 400 square feet with 2 bedrooms that were less than 100 square feet each, a small living room and tiny kitchen. The scale of everything was much smaller than what we are accustomed to; the height of the kitchen cabinets were at thigh level and the ceiling itself extended only a foot above my head. Even the couch only sat 2 people comfortably. I selected my room and before I could make myself comfortable was whisked away to the agency for the first time.
“Harajuku Girls” courtesy japaneselifestyle.com
The light was dim and yellow and smoke-filled the hallway leading up to the agency. It was uncomfortably small and dirty with a slew of old sofas and chairs strewn about. A middle-aged Japanese lady sat inhaling a cigarette in the corner of the room. She wore dirty pink slippers and a tawdry silk blouse, her hair stringy from the smoke and polluted Tokyo air. The door slammed shut and she slowly gazed up at me from toe to head while reaching for my portfolio to examine it. “No suntans!” she said looking at my hard-earned tan and handing me a bottle of a mysterious potion to remove it. Little did I realize that clear porcelain skin was the standard of beauty in this country. “Your roommate will be here tomorrow,” she said abruptly handing me a list of castings. “Ricky will pick you up in front of your apartment and don’t be late,” she said sternly. This hardly seemed like the professional establishment that my last agency was. The exchange was reminiscent of a call girl and her madame. Feeling like a big fish in a smaller pond, I felt a weeks worth of tension evaporate as I exited the building. I headed home, absorbing the unfamiliar sights and sounds of this new adventure along the way!