Saturday, June 21, 2008

"The Night Before the Sardine Express"

In the maelstrom of a typical Tokyo early evening, CT showed up at our prearranged (no pocketable cell phones in February 1991) meeting place at Naka-Meguro Station with a few friends of his, and then led the way to a Columbian bar that he knew. After sitting down and ordering the first round of food & drinks, we settled in for an evening of talk & laughter:

The evening wore on - too much time & money was spent, and by the time I looked at the time, thinking I would go home, it was too late - the train system was already beginning its nightly shutdown.

CT said I could stay at his place, and so we went out into the concrete & asphalt night - stopping for more drinks at a second place (his idea, not mine), and after that place, we then had soba noodles at a third place, before finally going to his apartment in Yutenji.

It was great to have a place to stay, but when visiting a friend's home, you can only dial down your social politeness level so far, and the polite tension prevents a thorough rest. Keep in mind that we're talking about a typical (especially in 1991) small Tokyo apartment, so the supreme luxury of a private room was not to be had.

Sleeping on the tatami mat floor (a couple of feet from my snoring freind) for a couple of hours and waking up more than half-asleep, I finally roused myself enough to begin the journey across town via the (very) early morning trains (which typically start up between 4:30-5:00 a.m.).

And it was on this journey home that I came across the situation I recorded on the Seibu-Ikebukuro Line:

I knew that that station at that time was a sardine packing point, but I hadn't recorded it, since when I had to pack myself on with the other sardines, I got on with the video camera in its case and over my head. (On the day the video was taken, I had a late schedule.) I would work pretty hard to get it onto one of the overhead racks, but when I couldn't, I put it on my shoulder to keep it from getting smashed. As for recording the inside of one of those high-density sardine runs, it just seemed like way too rude of a thing to do. Taking pictures of the backs of people disappearing into a train is one thing, but taking the camera out and recording everyone's faces on the inside of the train didn't seem like a great idea.

That evening was no big deal, but I'm hoping to give some context to my very often very misunderstood clip about the Sardine Run Express. I had originally wanted to keep on editing in bits from the original tape until the peak rush towards Tokyo, but I decided to just cover the night before and the first couple of trains in the morning. I might put together another clip to fill the gap between the Naka-Meguro/Yutenji-to-Shibuya clip and the crush-rush clip - if anyone is interested....

Lyle (Hiroshi) Saxon

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