At last I have found a job. I`m working in customer service near Akihabara – the digital district between Asakusa and the Imperial Palace. Wishing to be based in Tokyo for a while, I am even enjoying the one hour door-to-door commute. The contrast between my guesthouse in sedate Nishi-Ogi and my new workplace in manic Akihabara is startling. If the latter district never sleeps, the former barely wakes up, spending most of its life yawning in pyjamas.
From Nishi-Ogi, a 30 minute train ride on the JR Sobu line takes me through the skyscrapers of Shinjuku, alongside the green Kanda river, north of the shy Imperial Palace and finishes a couple of kilometres up from snobby-smart Ginza.
Every morning I feel I have seen half of Tokyo. But perhaps I am too trying to hard to see the forest for the trees. I end up seeing neither, just overwhelmed and bewildered by all the big, blocky buildings. I still haven`t even worked out how to get out of JR Akihabara`s 3 tiered station, struggling this week to shave the average time down to below 20 minutes. Whichever exit I end up at, outside the gates it is the same electric circus of geeks shopping for gadgets.
I become a geek myself in the evenings, drifting to Tokyo`s biggest Book Off outlet, a nationwide chain of used book stores. Although it has 6 floors, the size is less overwhelming than the density, every inch is exploited. It`s a standing library; customers compete with staff for room.
Last week I went straight to the 6th floor and picked up Volume 3 of Shima Shima. While squeezing between immovable readers, Last Christmas started playing. The familiar music made me briefly happy and sad, nostalgic and nauseous. But what was wrong with George? His voice sounded dreadful, the lyrics completely incomprehensible. Then I realised the words were Japanese. Christmas has been hijacked. Ladies and Gentleman, I bring you Exile…………….