There are so many bars, alleyways, shops and gardens I want to explore – but right now, its confidence and self-assurance seem unimaginable
I can feel the damp of that late-evening heat. It made my skin glisten as I stood shoulder to shoulder on the balcony of a Tokyo hotel with my fiance, an espresso martini chilling my fingertips. Below, the East Gardens of the Imperial Palace sprawled in the darkness, bats swooped above the trees and warm August rain began to plop between the leaves. Wrapped in cool silk gowns, we stood in silence watching Shinjuku’s lights strobe and wink across the city. The soundless vision betrayed the roar of life below: gloved teens playing solo dance games in arcades, late-night shoppers clutching bags and bubble tea, drinkers doing shots in Golden Gai, friends paying for ramen at vending machines, and lovers kissing by the light of red lanterns.
This was five years ago, our first time in Japan, a place I had delayed visiting until I’d met the person with whom I wanted to make those memories. Like many I had bought into Sofia Coppola’s soft-focus illusion of the country (in her 2003 film Lost In Translation) as a kaleidoscope of karaoke, cat cafes and mad crossings, but I quickly realised her film was a reductionist insult.