2 years in Tokyo already! Time seem…


2 years in Tokyo already! Time seems to move on another scale over here…. Anyway, I’d like to take the opportunity to cast my mind back to my arrival here. A dark tale of impeccable timing, natural disasters, nuclear accidents, bad decisions and wasting piles of hard earned cash.

My journey to Japan started well when I woke up with a headache in a Bangkok hotel room, checked the time and realised I’d overslept. This was shortly followed by a reckless airport dash in a sketchy overpriced taxi, a missed flight, and an expensive re-booking could just make the connection to Tokyo from Kuala Lumpur.

Stepping off the bus from Haneda airport at Shinjuku station at around midnight, it was dawning on me that I could hardly speak any Japanese, I had already missed the last train, I had nobody to meet me and I didn’t have a clue where I was going. Luckily the first thing I saw was a group of skaters having a night session on the banks at the west exit. What luck! The skate connection always pulls through. These guys showed me around, introduced me to the Tokyo scene and we’re still friends today.

As I could already see my small pot of money quickly disappearing (that I’d earned painting houses, carrying metal poles around in the rain and packing flour in a bread factory), my best option was to put a deposit down for a month in a guesthouse and apply for as many jobs as possible. Everything went swimmingly and I got offered a job on the fourth day and smugly headed home to celebrate and experience the biggest earthquake in Japan’s recorded history.

As it was my first quake, I actually had no idea what was going on or even that it was out of the ordinary… I just wondered how I was going to get used to sleeping though the shakes, how much money I was going to spend replacing the light bulbs that were falling out of the ceiling and why the fridge wasn’t tied to the wall. It wasn’t until I turned on the TV that I realised it was bad. A lot more worrying was the imminent nuclear holocaust. After a few days wandering around Tokyo wondering where all the people were and why the lights were all turned off. I started getting bored of drinking in empty bars and having to run outside mid-sip as the aftershocks hit, so I decided to take the British embassy’s advice and run away to Osaka for a few days. This kind of turned into a boozy ‘end of the world’ bender and was a great break before I had to go back to Tokyo, face the radiation and start my new life as a Japanese salary man.

I can’t say that I didn’t think about leaving (a famous British newspaper ran the headline ‘GET OUT OF TOKYO NOW’ even though the real disaster was nowhere near Tokyo city.), but it took a lot to get here and get a job so I decided to stick it out. There was one worry that I still had lingering over me – some strange red marks on my torso that appeared when I was in Myanmar. At the time, a friend dislocated his elbow and I happened to be wondering around a very basic rural hospital topless (we used my shirt to make a sling). I took the opportunity to ask a doctor what he thought it was and he just said two words - “dirty T-shirt” and gave me some ointment. However a month or so later, in Tokyo, it hadn’t gone away so I decided to see a doctor who blankly told me she thought I had one of the worst diseases known to man. Fuck. Blood test. Shit. I’m going to die. The skin will explode, I’ll look like the elephant man, I’ll go insane and finally, die. How will I tell the family?

It was a long hour waiting for the blood test results, but when I came back she finally told me – “Oh sorry! Yeah it’s nothing bad at all, completely harmless actually. Use this steroids cream and it’ll disappear in a month”. So I started working and using the cream everyday. To my surprise it got ten times worse and my skin really did start to explode haha. Real pain! Maybe I really do have that terrible disease, or maybe it’s the radiation! Fuck! Am I insane yet? When will I die? After several visits back to the hospital it’s obvious they have absolutely no idea what’s wrong with me (apart from the fact that the medicine they gave me infected me in some way) so they start giving me various cocktails of antibiotics and other drugs each week that seemed to do nothing or make me worse and charge me for the benefit.

This went on for about six months to a year. It’s pretty funny to look back on now but it was easily the worst year of my life. I could never take my t-shirt off, even while having sex (like a fat kid that goes swimming) but as always, it always works out in the end. Anyway, lessons learned;

1. Don’t trust the media. They lie.
2. Don’t trust doctors. They don’t know anything.
3. See things through to the end.
4. Have fun. ‘Cause you never know when you’re gonna go!

Laurence Keefe

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