This is every morning around 8:20, as I pass the shrine and crane my neck to see if the cats are here. There is a white one and a striped one. Sometimes the white one sleeps on the rock, sometimes he is just in the dirt. In the morning, the two of them rarely patrol the streets but today I catch the striped one crossing back from the photograph place. The Powers That Be seem to actively dislike the cats’ presence, putting up signs telling people who read Japanese not to feed them. They place full water bottles strategically around the perimeter, a non-confrontational approach designed to ensure the cats somehow see glimmering light or their reflection and are horrified to the point that they will never return. The same method is employed to prevent pigeons (hanging shiny CDs from string on your balcony), who to be fair are mostly stupid, and cats are on to your bullshit. It obviously does not work. I wonder what they are getting into when they are gone: rummaging through the impeccably bagged trash, terrorizing those stupid birds, snaking the hallways behind Mister Donut. At night on the way back to the station I take a look for them too, another seasonal fifty-fifty lottery chance like all the stupid gashapon machines I play. When they are there I’ve won for five seconds, look at the cats, look at the cats, time to keep walking.
In front of one of the alcohol vending machines (yes), there is a squishy green mat. I had walked over it every day for weeks because it was placed at such a nice break point in my walk, and it felt good under my brown work-things. One morning I was early enough to see the store keeper hit a button, lurch his metal garage door to life, declare his store open. At the door’s halfway he emerged with a squishy green mat and put it in front of the alcohol machine. I don’t walk on it anymore.
In the Sannomiya station sometimes there is a man with a traditional cone straw hat who seems inaudible until you are within fifteen feet, and then you hear the “ommmmmmmmmm” from his throat, the solemn gaze he gives out in front of him, through the escalator, like he’s eternally pondering the Sukiya menu, the gyudon or the cheese curry rice, what do I pick, oh jeez, omm. I am afraid if he makes his choice his glance will turn to me, and he will analyze the deepest faults of my inner character. For now it seems he is content to solicit donations for a cause that surely must be important enough to scare everyone who walks by. One day it was a lady, but I don’t think that helped.
Tonight my teachers are having a party for me at an “izakaya,” which is a Japanese-flavored drinking and snacking establishment where one pays a flat fee, and in exchange can drink mainly anything they want, and as much of it as they want, for a certain amount of time. There are also snacks routinely delivered to the table. In partial English muxed with worthless Japanese myself and another man made it clear to each other that we are individually Very Fans of The Beatles, and that the new remasters are excellent. One person said that he is very familiar with sake, and I think through someone’s errant translation he was told that I have a drinking problem. More alarming was his look of pleasure and excitement. I think tonight could either be really horrible, or really horrible.