Chapter 39:

Tokyo Part II: Chapter 34

The Kimochi Warui Diary

Harajaku was smaller than I’d envisioned, and since Jotaro and I didn’t have any interest in buying clothes, we blew right past it all. Bookmark here

We crossed the infamous Shibuya Crossing, played with the noisy rubber chicken toys in Don Quixote, and—because Noah and Kumiko understood that Jotaro liked music—went to a huge record store.Bookmark here

Sure, why not? I’d listened to plenty of Japanese music—it would be cool to see my favorite albums on a shelf in real life. Bookmark here

I tested out my ability to use Japan’s “alphabetical” ordering. In Japanese, the order goes through the syllables just like you learned them in the first year of Japanese courses. Bookmark here

First you go through the vowels by themselves: a, i, u, e, o. Then you move onto the next set of syllables: ka, ki, ku, ke, ko. Then onto each set for ga, ta, da, and so forth until finally ending with ya, ra, and wa. This also included the kanji that started with the same syllables, so I’d be learning how some kanji were pronounced at the same time. Bookmark here

My knowledge turned out to be enough. It helped me pinpoint the physical copies of some of the very same Japanese albums I’d listened to over and over again throughout the years. Bookmark here

Frankly, being face to face with the physical versions of all that music made me feel like I was in some alternate reality. Bookmark here

You see, the Japanese music I listened to was all digital. It was never anything you would hear on the radio or on the television, so for me, it only existed in the depths of the internet. With no one in my physical proximity to have listened to the same music as me, it almost felt as if what I listened to wasn’t real. The only time I had ever had my taste in music validated was during a karaoke event at an anime convention, when people in the crowd were cheering for otaku meme songs. Bookmark here

But even that stuff is hardly “real music.” What about the real music? What about Shugo Tokumaru, who I brazenly asked for while running drunk through the streets of Osaka? Bookmark here

Finally, there was one of Shugo Tokumaru’s albums on the shelf in front of me—not just as a thumbnail file in a music folder. And it turned out, the album actually came in a folded paper case! What a unique detail—one that I would have never understood just from downloading his music. Bookmark here

I decided right then that I would buy the album.Bookmark here

To be honest, there was no reason for me to buy physical copies of an album I already owned. I didn’t even a CD player anymore. Either way, something about owning the material representation of this album felt like it was finally going to seal the gap that this music had created in my life.Bookmark here

I made my way to the front register where a cute Japanese cashier was stationed, wearing a yellow apron with the record store’s logo emblazoned on the front. She took my CD to scan the barcode, and when she turned it over, she looked surprised.Bookmark here

“えぇ… Shugo Tokumaru? I’m surprised you know it!”Bookmark here

I almost thought I didn’t hear her right.Bookmark here

I finally met someone who knew Shugo Tokumaru?Bookmark here

But then my head filled with the poisonous sludge of self-doubt. Should I try to use Japanese? But won’t I come off as some kind of otaku? Or would it be better to just act like the oblivious foreigner and use English? And then what if she asks how I actually know this music in the first place? Wouldn’t she automatically start judging me for knowing things like this?Bookmark here

“Thanks,” I said.Bookmark here

And that was it. I didn’t know what else to say throughout the entire silence of her finishing my payment and handing me my receipt. Bookmark here

I took my new purchase and went down to the main entrance where the rest were waiting for me.Bookmark here

Jotaro showed me some CDs he had bought.Bookmark here

“No idea what they are,” he said. “Just went to the ‘rock’ section and picked up some random stuff. The cover on this one looked cool.”Bookmark here

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