Sometimes I fear Asakusa might be becoming a bit boring; not enough nutters on the street, too many business hotels and space station-sized shopping malls sucking up the air and activity. Shortly after arriving back in Japan for a short visit, I went to Rokku Broadway, a street used to be the centre of cinema in Japan, and where Tokyo’s tallest tower, the Ryounkaku used to stand.
With blooming pink sakura taking up all the attention, in the late afternoon this section of Browadway was empty except for myself and a drunk sprawled outside the 4 storey WINS bookmakers. A young man in round, black rimmed spectacles and wearing a magnificent green sparkling jacket set up his microphone in front of a building site. With no audience and no obvious motivation, he started singing to the Asakusa sky a melancholy selection of post-war pop songs “Tokyo Boogie Woogie (feeling ukiuki – [floating])”, “Ahh, Ueno Station! (Ueno, the station of my heart)” and “The Sandwich-board Man” (Today again hugging my placard). I found it hard to believe anybody listens to these tunes now, even Youtube must groan when asked to dig them out.
The only motivation I could fathom for his performance was the sheer pleasure of singing. He sang with such joy; he couldn’t have smiled any wider, it was as if his whole life had been spent preparing for this moment, the chance to sing to an old drunk and a dopey Devonian.
His courage and charm briefly brought Broadway back to life. As if stabbed with a jab of adrenalin, the drunk shot up and stumbled over to me. “Asakusa, wakarimasu ka?” (Asakusa, do you understand?). Then, he pointed a sunburnt finger towards the young champ and hailed him as “Tokyo’s Number Wan”.
When the star – Inuyama Shiro, spotted that I was only pretending to read a sign about an upcoming horse race and that actually, I was listening intently to his performance, somehow he extended his smile even wider, and waved a spare hand across the Broadway at me. It felt like a swallow tilting a wing at a passing pigeon. He became my hero. Some of his spirit even crossed over to me, his smile became my smile, and an hour later, in my hotel room, I was singing along to the songs myself in front of my laptop (the surest audience of all).
“Sandoicchiman, Sandoicchiman, when I cry, the swallows will chuckle”
** NOTE: All my gigs will be announced here first.**