“I loved that bike, loved everything about it—the way it cornered, the growl of the engine, even the temperamental gear shifts. I called it Thanatos.”
“Nishi Nippori was boring, blue collar, and unremarkable in every way—the kind of place no one who didn’t live there ever bothered to visit. I had taken an apartment there because it was about the cheapest place I could find that still offered a station on the Yamanote loop line.”
“If you were looking for a grappler in Tokyo, where would you start? It wouldn’t be a sure thing, of course, but with nothing more to go on, you might want to check out judo dojos. And the one you’d probably begin with, because it’s the biggest and best known, would be the Kodokan.”
“The area was known, even notorious, for streetwalkers, many of them of the “mature” variety, and for its profusion of love hotels.”
“Even back then, the trams were dying out, being buried by train tracks as fast as the city’s wooden houses were being torn down and replaced by ferroconcrete.”
“I inhaled a bowl of tachigui ramen and a beer near the station, plus about a liter of water to replace what I’d lost in the sentō.”
“Once away from the blinding lights and giddy electronic music of the pachinko parlors surrounding the station, it didn’t just feel like I was in a different section of Tokyo—it felt like I was in a different city entirely.”
“I sat and looked around. Everything was old, dark wood: the walls, the ceiling, the counter itself. Old-school didn’t even begin to describe it.”
“It was in Kabukichō, one of the more salacious parts of Shinjuku. Not so much during the day, but it could get pretty tawdry as sunlight gave way to neon and the nocturnal clientele began to arrive in force, released from the maw of the corporate machine, animated by sake, emboldened by night.”
“They took their positions on the stage—Hino, the pianist, the bassist, the drummer. Then, without any fanfare, they started playing. “I didn’t know the piece—I knew very little jazz at all back then—but it was beautiful.”
“It was in Yanaka, near Ueno, the northeast of the city, part of Shitamachi, all narrow streets and tiny wooden buildings.”
“Each building had an illuminated sign running up its side, advertising clubs and bars and restaurants.”
“You might have seen on the news…a certain someone was laid to rest yesterday in Yanaka Cemetery.”
“Yanaka was an old cemetery in an old ward of the same name, part of Shitamachi. Numerous important personages were laid to rest among the thousands of plots there, including, as McGraw had noted, the Tokugawa clan.”
“The pond, with a circumference of about two kilometers, had three sections, one of which—called the Lotus Pond for reasons impossible to miss upon even a casual glance—was in the summer almost completely covered with giant lotus plants. Here and there, in those areas where the lotuses were less thick, ducks and other migratory birds swam and fed, and enormous, listless carp glided along, nudging at the mud, searching for whatever carp subsist on.”
Excerpts from Graveyard of Memories (John Rain Thrillers) by Barry Eisler.
Graveyard of Memories is Barry Eisler’s latest in the series of John Rain thrillers. Always evocative of the locations in which they’re set, the stories often unfold in modern day Tokyo. Graveyard is a little different: turning back the clock to the beginning of Rain’s ‘career’ it resurrects the Tokyo of 1972, a more modest city in which skyscrapers were just beginning to pierce the skyline, the neon was less pronounced, and the edges were quite a bit rougher.
These traces of Tokyo, though they continue to fade over the years, still exist. Graveyard of Memories inspired me to create a set of photos that hopefully captures the spirit of Eisler’s vision of 1970s Tokyo.
By the way, Graveyard of Memories is a gripping read. I devoured it in a day, which for me is an impressive achievement and speaks of the quality of Eisler’s story-telling abilities.
Note: 1972, the year that Graveyard of Memories is set, was also the year that Fujifilm released its first Fuji branded film in America. The photos above were taken four decades later – coincidentally with a Fujifilm camera – but they’ve been processed to – hopefully – better capture the look of 1972 film.