Haneda, Tokyo's second airport, is conveniently located just a short train ride from Shinagawa in the south of the Japanese capital. On a recent Friday afternoon, I showed my passport to security. I was the only one in that particular line. It was a quiet day.
“And why have you come?” I was asked politely by a security official examining my passport.
“Well I used to live here and have come back to see some friends.''
“You flew from…?”
And then this is what amazed me. “Ah,'' he said, “the bicycles, lots of bikes”.
“Yes,” I replied. “They are very popular now.”
“It is healthy,” he said.
He seemed ready to have a chat and I was ready to oblige. I was in no particular hurry. No one was waiting for me on the other side and no one was behind me. “Yes it is very healthy. And enjoyable. I cycle everywhere in Beijing.”
“Where are you staying?”
“Not far. Have a great time.”
With that, he stamped my passport and I went through.
I was only in Tokyo for two days. In fact I had no arrangements to stay anywhere. There is a certain freedom in not knowing how the winds of fortune will blow. I had packed light, just a small backpack. Tokyo is a city where memories are made even if plans aren't.
Shinagawa is the first major stop from Haneda. I got off, had a walk, and then saw students setting up tables for a charity food fair. Delights from all over Japan were on offer. I sat down and asked a student if they could tell me where I could find a good B&B. Two students walked me around the corner and within five minutes I had a room at a very good price. I left my bag there and went back to the food. Nothing cost more than $5.
After a marvelous night and a good sleep, I went for a long walk in the morning. Then this lady started following me and taking pictures of me on her phone. After 10 minutes or so, I went up to her to introduce myself and ask why she was following me.
“I know who you are,'' she said.
“That makes two of us, but who do think I am?”
“That's easy. You are Russell Crowe.''
“No, I am not.”
“I know, I know, you have to say that. But I saw you in the Generaltor.”
“Yes, I saw you. You were very good.”
“Look, I promise you, I am not Russell Crowe.”
She took some persuading but eventually realized what was patently obvious. I was not a movie star.
I felt I had let her down, and offered to buy her a coffee.
No, she said, crestfallen, and started deleting her photographs.
“Where do you live?” she asked, more out of politeness than interest.
“Ah,” she said. “The bikes, loads of bikes for people to use.''