Tokyo Archive

DB Guidinger & Associates

DB Guidinger & Associates

Writing Services Since 1985 …



“In my country, it is common for children to be raised by their grandparents. When I was a little girl my grandfather was my best friend. We were together every day and he is forever in my heart.”

“Grandfather, will rain come tomorrow?”

My grandfather’s eyes wandered the horizon before settling on a flock of low flying birds. “Yes Granddaughter, tomorrow will bring rain.”

“How do you know Grandfather?”

“Birds fly low Granddaughter because moisture in the sky brings worms to Earth’s surface.”

“Grandfather, can I touch a dragonfly?”

“Extend your arm Granddaughter when you see a dragonfly. It will land on your finger.”

“Grandfather, were you in the war?”

“Yes Granddaughter, I was in the war.”

Before the war, my grandfather was a mailman, making his deliveries on horseback. As was his custom he rode bareback and barefoot, even in the cold of winter.

“Grandfather, why didn’t you wear shoes?”

“Granddaughter, a horse is more easily controlled with the touch of a foot than a kick from a boot.”

As was their custom, people would wait for my grandfather and his horse in front of their homes. In Japan, receiving a letter is an honor worthy of high respect. Once war came to their land, however, the people would hide from my grandfather and his horse in fear he would deliver a red envelope. A red envelope meant a father or son was called to serve the Imperial Japanese Army and the people were afraid. One day, another man rode a horse along my grandfather’s route delivering the mail. My grandfather had received a red envelope of his own and he was home, preparing to leave my grandmother and their three small children. After training, he was sent to China where he joined many thousands of other Japanese soldiers.

That was all my grandfather told me about the war.

After his death, my grandmother refused to violate her husband’s privacy by speaking of his experiences in the war. Then, when she too was near death and I was next to her, she suddenly sat up, looked me straight in the eye, and finished my grandfather’s war story.

My grandfather’s unit fought many battles with the Chinese. After each, he was so overcome with emotion that he would lie on the ground shaking while his mind raced home to his wife and their three small children. One day, his unit was overrun by Chinese horse cavalry and, with the exception of himself and an officer named Lieutenant Uchikawa, everyone in his unit was killed. My grandfather survived by pretending he was dead, lying motionless on top of the severely wounded lieutenant. Victorious Chinese soldiers moved through the fallen Japanese troops firing bullets into the heads to insure there would be no survivors. Hearing the approaching Chinese soldiers my grandfather thought of my grandmother and their three small children. Then he prepared to receive a bullet in his brain.

That was his last thought before passing out …


Surviving Japan

Reality is sinking in.

We walk to the local market to stock up for what appears to be a long haul. Problem! The shelves are mostly empty. All that’s left is the lousiest of the lousy … Really cheap ‘just add hot water’ noodle soup; skim ‘aka white water’ milk; made in China rice crackers (respectable Japanese would never (NEVER!) buy food from China). Fortunately, there’s a few bottles of red wine. I grab them all.

Like wilted roses, we trudge home.

First thing, I crack open a bottle of red and guzzle half of it. Soon I’m going on about being stuck and no food and all that. I’m about to go out and track down the slime sucker who put the beam across our ceiling when my wife points to the TV now displaying an image of Matsushima, a revered member of Nihon Sankei, one of the three most beautiful places in Japan. When the Haiku poet, Matsuo Basho, visited Matsushima in 1689 he spontaneously erupted …

Matsushima ah!
A-ah, Matsushima, ah!
Matsushima, ah!

This year’s tsunami, however, gave no such respect to Matsushima, leaving destruction and dead bodies littered across what was once pristine. The pain is enough to zip even my mouth. I fall to the tatamis, sit back, and stare at the TV …



Sears Tower

As the machine draws near a firefighter leans over the railing with a walkie-talkie. He’s talking to someone as he glares at me. I can almost hear him, but not quite. I’m thinking they’re waiting for me to make the first move when I hear what eerily sounds like a seal being broken; as if someone is peeling back the rubber cap on a canning jar. It takes a second for my eyes to lock on the source. On the inside, inches to my right, security guards armed with their own suction cups are removing the glass. Like a flash, I release the pressure on one of my cups, slap it onto their window, and pump it up. Astonishment freezes their faces as I swing out onto the cup, then pump up the other.

I try to take advantage of their momentary lapse of concentration. However, by the time I’m able to transfer my weight onto the second cup and begin releasing the first, they’ve recovered and are aggressively pulling the window into the building. In an adrenaline rush, I lean back and pull in the opposite direction. My opponents’ eyes widen in fear the window with me attached will spiral toward the pavement and I feel their tug relax. Then a man barges into the room and starts barking orders as if he wants me hauled in regardless of the danger.

For the next couple of minutes we wage a bizarre game of tug of war at six hundred feet. One moment they have the advantage with someone reaching out to grab me. And the next, it’s mine, and the glass slides back into place. What’s most disturbing is the memory of what happened on the second floor. In theory the cups should stick like glue; but the glass is flexing, and I’m hanging on for my life …

DB Guidinger & Associates
Tokyo & Marin

Enjoy the Moment

I am an American

I am an American

I was born in Los Angeles back in the time when the American automobile was loved & respected throughout the world, and America was loved & respected throughout the world. Obviously, I’ve been around a few years …

In 1988, I began spending three or four months a year in Asia, primarily in Japan. Much of this time has been in and around Tokyo. People say I know Tokyo like a taxicab driver. That’s not entirely true. Mostly, I know the Westside; but that I know well. I’ve sublet places all over – Shinjuku, Ikebukuro, Mejiro, Shin Okubo, Nerima, Nakano, Kichijoji, Fussa, Musashi Sakai, Omotesando, Chitose Karasuyama, Soshigaya Okura, Nishi Magomae, Eifukucho, Jiyugaoka – the list goes on and on.

My transportation in Japan is pretty much limited to trains and bicycles.  Amazing, particularly when you consider I grew up in LA, the car culture of the planet. My bicycles, mountain bikes, I bring in from California because Japanese bikes are too small.  The thing about bicycling is it not only keeps you strong, but stopping when a good reason comes along is never an issue …

That’s me in Japan.

The reason I started these treks to the world’s largest city was because in the 1980’s, under the strange tutelage of Ronald Reagan and supply-side economics, America was nose diving. Japan, on the other hand, was achieving economic preeminence. I came here to study how the Japanese did it. Anyway, that was what I told people. If the truth be known, I was broke and my economic bridges in America were ablaze. I needed money and I figured Japan was a place I could find some. What transpired truly took my breath away. Not only did I come up with a way or two to make some cash, I also came to love Japan. Today, Japan is in my soul and we are forever linked.

It’s all the more amazing considering my home in America is in Marin County.  In case you don’t know, Marin lies across the Golden Gate Bridge from San Francisco. They say when Americans dream, they dream of California. Well, when Californians dream, they dream of Marin. It’s where the rich liberals live. It’s where the Grateful Dead call home. Where mountain bikes were invented. Where George Lucas has his Skywalker Ranch. Things happen in Marin before they happen in other places in California and, as everyone knows, everything happens in California before anywhere else. Cocaine came through Marin in the Seventies long before it hit LA and years before it ruined lives in Omaha. They say the marijuana is the best in Marin because it’s where the top organic dope farmers come to sell their wares. Marin people have the bread and they have the standard.

Marin is such a place.

The right-wing, the Bush lovers, hate Marin. A quick look around and it’s pretty easy to figure out why. Right off there’s the Impeach Bush signs. Bush represents everything Marin people despise – Rigged elections. Lies. Stealing. Torture. Bush is exactly what Marin is not about. Love Bush? Stay out of Marin; everyone will be happier, especially you.

Then there’s all these healthy looking people biking, running, and shopping in super-market-sized natural food stores. The haters, the Bushies, stand out like sore thumbs so they just hate and avoid Marin like the plague. That’s fine with me.

Marin is quite a spot and I am proud to call it home. It was a big deal coming to Japan, leaving my Marin life. But lack of money will do that. Some folks grab a shopping cart and sleep in the hills. But I was born in Hollywood, studied at Berkeley, and lived in Marin. So I hocked what I could, borrowed from whomever would, and flew to Tokyo. Of course, my ticket was first class.

Tokyo has two real downsides. One is the air. I mean, how can the air be that clean when you’ve got 40 million people fighting for their share of it? The other is all the people. I couldn’t believe it when I first arrived. The packed trains and stations were something I’d never even imagined. A sudden move in Tokyo knocks over three unsuspecting obasans.

There are people everywhere!

Still, Tokyo has it’s moments. One of my pleasures is walking or biking the hosoi michis at night, listening to the sounds of people living their lives. I’ve stood clandestinely outside countless homes listening to piano or shamisen emanations. When I’m real lucky, I hear a koto.

My first uguisu was near a Buddha hidden away in Yotsuya.

So, when the beautiful girl I met in a coffee shop on the Westside suggested we search for a quiet place with cleaner air I responded, “Let’s do it.”  That’s how I got to Kugenuma. I love Tokyo, and always will. But what can I say?

I am an American.

D. B. Guidinger © All Rights Reserved 2003

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