I have lived in Tokyo, Japan, with my family for many years. Every day is an adventure worth writing about.
When people ask me where I live, it's easiest for me to say I live in Tokyo, as Hachioji City is not known by most people. However, in my years living in Hachioji, a west Tokyo city between the big city and the country, I have encountered some bizarre situations, some interesting people, and even moments that just made me go, "Huh?"
I hope the following stories put a smile on your face and make you just as quizzical as I was when I experienced them.
Adventures in Night Walking
I suffer from insomnia, and one of the ways I have learned to combat that is through rhythms in my daily life. One of those rhythms is walking at night around my neighborhood. The nice thing about where I live is that it is mostly residential, so most people are asleep and it seems like I have the whole place to myself at times.
One place that I frequent is Akibadai Park, a large park next to the elementary school that my son attends. It has a pyramid with a long slide, and at night, I usually find myself perched up on top of that pyramid just breathing and gazing over the area.
But every so often, upon arriving at this park, I find that I am not alone. This place attracts all kinds of people from all walks of life.
Umm... A Little Help?
One night I arrived at the park to find myself in the middle of what seemed to be a frat party. The group were incredibly wild and rambunctious, and they were doing all kinds of weird, illegal, and dangerous things.
Not being one to judge, I just let them do their thing and started to move myself to another area. Before walking away, however, one of the guys screamed, "I'M GOING DOWN THE SLIDE!"
This peaked my interest, so I slowed my stride and kept a sharp eye on the action.
The lot of them made their way to the long slide, known as the Dragon Slider, and one by one, they started making their way down.
The last guy that went was a treat, though. He launched himself headfirst, and between the two downs of the slide, he got stuck. Both arms got lodged into the side railing, and he was too drunk to know how to free himself.
The friends stumbled their way up the pyramid to begin helping, but it was like watching toddlers figure out a Rubix Cube. I had to hold back my laughter as I returned to the pyramid to help this man, and upon realizing that I wasn't Japanese, they began singing my praises as the Super Foreigner.
Yes. That's as stupid and racist as it sounds, but I appreciated their sentiment.
Thankfully, I haven't seen such party goers at this park since, but I hope they know they can trust the Super Foreigner to help them out if they ever get stuck again.
One of my earliest memories of walking to Akibadai Park included seeing a young man with a flashlight running back and forth in the field. Keep in mind, all of the lights are off in the park after 10pm, so it is either pitch black or only moonlit.
I wondered, "What in the world is this guy doing?"
As I got closer, I realized that this man was playing with a Frisbee behind the pyramid, but he wasn't with anyone. He was throwing the Frisbee back and forth to himself, using only a flashlight to keep an eye on the the Frisbee as he dashed to catch his own throw over and over and over again.
Naturally, I couldn't relax and focus on top of the pyramid, because I kept wondering;
What is he doing? Does he not have enough time to practice Frisbee in the day time? Is he training in secret to impress his fellow Frisbee players? Is he trying to make some new Ultimate Frisbee team here in Hachioji? What is it?!
Skate or Die!
One of my most recent experiences included hearing the sound of skateboards rolling, slipping, crashing, and colliding as I approached the pyramid.
I started to think to myself, "There is no way they are skateboarding around the pyramid in the dark, right?"
Four young men were practicing their kickflips and ollies, and as expected, they were falling all over the place. The place they were practicing barely had any room for error, so when they fell, they fell hard. I heard thumps of heads hitting concrete, the sound of bodies falling down stairs, and skateboards flying down to the base of the pyramid.
Did any of this stop these rebels from getting their skate on and grinding their way to the top of the pyramid?
No. Absolutely not.
They kept this up the whole time I was there and then some. Who knows what trouble they got themselves into and how many more thrilling tricks they could pull off and couldn't even see.
Repair Man Man Man Man!
To date, this one confuses me the most. I arrived at Akibadai Park and perched myself on top of the pyramid and began to ponder. I was entering into a deep meditative state when suddenly;
"What in the world? Did someone bring a chop shop to the park?," I joked to myself.
"Okay. Seriously. Who brought power tools to the park?"
"Am I losing my mind? What is happening?!"
Apparently, the whole time I was sitting on the pyramid, there was a group of guys at the base of the pyramid in the sandpit right in front of the slide. Since it was a cloudy evening, it was especially dark, and I couldn't see the people below me at all.
They didn't start speaking until after the third use of the power drill.
"So I was wondering what kept stalling my bike and figured we could all check it out. What do you think?," one of the guys said.
Yes. They were repairing a motorcycle in the sandpit of a local park at midnight, and may I remind you, it was pitch black.
Maybe this is a testament of the overwork-culture here in Japan. Maybe these men didn't have time to work on this bike any other time, and because of that, they had no choice but to work on it at the park... maybe?
A Masterpiece at Work
In February 2019, I was walking my usual path. It was freezing cold this night, and I was planning on just simply walking around the pyramid before returning home.
However, upon walking into the park, I heard a familiar sound, but I couldn't quite put my finger on it. As I got closer to the pyramid, I saw a man moving around wildly as if he was dancing like one of the Birds of Paradise.
But his dancing still didn't answer the sound I heard earlier. What exactly was he doing?
I finally got near him and noticed he was holding what appeared to be a handheld easel with a small canvas mounted onto it. The sound I heard was his painting, and when I realized that, putting two and two together just hurt my brain. The questions just kept piling up;
Is he famous? Is this a new painting method I have never heard of before? How is he balancing the easel, dancing, and painting all at the same time? Am I being pranked right now? Where are the cameras?!
I cautiously made my way to the top of the pyramid, ignoring how cold it was, because I became infatuated with this man and what he was doing.
After about 20 minutes, he just suddenly stopped, took a bow, collected his things, and walked away.
"WHO DID HE JUST BOW TO?!"
I still ask myself this question to this day.
West Tokyo may not be as busy and high octane as downtown, but I can tell you from my own experience at a park right near my home that Hachioji has some very interesting people.
Don't you think it's worth coming to visit here?
© 2019 Jason Reid Capp