When I first came to Japan, in 1990, every foreigner and her tanuki carried a copy of “Foot-Loose in Tokyo” by Jean Pearce.
Subtly subtitled, “The Curious Traveler’s Guide to the 29 Stages of the Yamanote Line”, I was sure this book was my key to unlocking a time-slip to old Edo.
I was determined to find the last vestiges of Yoshiwara, mostly.
But unfortunately, I was banished to Machida, living madly far from the crowd.
On the rare opportunities I went to “town”, I was with my host sister, or scurrying to church.
There was little chance to explore.
The first time I was on my own (when my “guide” vanished suddenly to a “rabu”), I tried to follow Jean’s footsteps in one chapter.
I soon realised this was just a guidebook for armchair adventurers, and all the “sights” existed in the mind’s eye.
The history had been bombed and burned, then buried under concrete and glass.
So I turned to my Lonely Planet for salvation.
This offered the curious “hack” of doing the Yamanote Line on a geta-thong — buying a ticket just to the next station, but riding the circle in the opposite direction.
This is possibly the naughtiest thing I ever did in Japan.
I spent one hour staring out the window at the ass-side of the concrete and glass, feigning invisibility, praying that ticket inspectors wouldn’t find me.
Trust me, it was worth the 100 yen ticket.