Living by Myself in Tokyo hr663

Hidemi Woods
4 min readFeb 17, 2023

When I left my hometown for Tokyo and started living by myself there in the mid 80’s, quite a few second-run theaters for movies still remained. Those theaters showed two or three films at the price of one new film. The best experience of mine was when I saw ‘Top Gun’, ‘Taps’ and ‘Back to the Future’ as an all-night triple feature program at a second-run theater in a suburb of Tokyo. Those films were already a bit old by then and the show time was the middle of the night, so that the price was incredibly low accordingly. I left my apartment at night, ate out for dinner, got hamburgers to have inside the theater and was immersed into the movie world until dawn. The main attraction for me had been ‘Top Gun’ that turned out to be so-so. Instead, I was deeply moved by ‘Back to the Future’ although I had thought it would be a silly 50’s comedy judging from its trailer. The film became my best one and had held that position for many years to come.

Back then, I had just moved to Tokyo to become a musician in spite of all the opposition from my family and friends. I had been feeling unsettled constantly because of anxiety and loneliness, which stemmed from uncertainty of my future. I had been clueless about whether I would be successful as a musician and how my life would unfold itself. I saw ‘Back to the Future’ in that state of mind and the story and the ending of the film encouraged me immensely.

When I lived in my hometown with my family, many rules bound me. To begin with, that all-night movie experience was a dream within a dream since my curfew was as early as 9 p.m. Other rules were abundant. Singing while eating was forbidden, a gap between the body and the edge of the table must not exist during the meal, whistling or playing the piano after dark was prohibited, some ways of talking to my grandparents were banned, walking with audible steps inside the house wasn’t allowed, chewing something in the mouth in public was regarded as an act of barbarity, and so on and on. But once I began to live by myself, I was freed from all the family rules and everything was left to my discretion. I ate what I wanted, when I wanted. I woke up when I felt like it, since I didn’t work at an office. I slept until evening at times, and rarely cleaned or did the dishes. The bathroom got moldy. While I appreciated freedom, I realized how slack I really was. My music career didn’t go well either. I had expected I could find my band members easily as Tokyo was the biggest city in Japan where so many aspiring musician gathered from all parts of Japan. The reality was Tokyo simply had too many bad unmotivated musicians. It was extremely hard to find a member whom I desired and my band just kept breaking up. That was far from what I had planned as life in Tokyo. I sometimes got tempted to doubt if my decision to come here was the right one even though I hadn’t had any other choice.

When I finished to see the movies all night and left the theater, it was early morning in the real world. I headed back for my apartment. The train had started running and many commuters were walking hurriedly and gloomily toward the station already. They used the train bound for downtown that was an opposite direction to where I was going. I was waiting on the empty platform for my train while watching them waiting on the nearly overflowing platform. When their train came, they pushed and crammed themselves into the cars. The station workers additionally pushed their backs from outside to squeeze as many passengers as possible in and the train doors barely closed. Minutes after it departed, the platform got filled with commuters quickly again. I stepped in the empty opposite train and yawned in the seat, remembering ‘Back to the Future’. When I decided to live by myself in Tokyo that was a far and unknown big city, I was afraid and trembled for what my life was going to be like. I gave up my right to an inheritance by leaving my family, and a possible steady income by quitting college. I was alone by parting from my family and my friends who disagreed and didn’t support me mentally. I threw away everything which wasn’t easy for me. But as Marty’s father dared, I had dared in my own way and left for Tokyo. I hoped that action of mine changed my future. In a good way, I wished.

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