Love in Tokyo

By Nicola Pilkington

This is not a travelogue.

But a reflection about a love in Tokyo.

First: Tokyo, you first-world-hustle-bustle-energetic-hive of a city. How the fuck do you flow so? You sport the busiest intersection in the world (up to 2 500 pedestrians a crossing*) and are at risk of a declining population!? Is this because you don’t make eye contact on the train? Or that women are vocated toward a career, therefore singledom? Or that people do not loiter but rather gather in malls and places of commerce as a theatre for entertainment? Whatever the reason (for my critical reflection), Tokyo, I knew a love in you.

Well, I have known a love before you, I just thought that Love in Tokyo was an apt name for this piece. Perhaps not correct- because you were incredibly stressful, sans a craft coffee bar; and because he does not live in Tokyo- but apt nonetheless.


Now: about a Love.

My soul brother, cosmic twin.

It was decided that the galaxy once gave birth to a sun that shattered into exponential pieces; and that we were the same spec of stardust then. 

And now, separated by time and space, I know that our pulse still beats at the same tempo;

Or rather that our pulses beat at such a rhythm that they result in an orchestration of laughter, good music, needed tears and gentle forehead kisses.

An odd pair, perhaps. But I think that a cartoon creator would salivate from our duo.

He taught me how to love deeply and he empowered me to wear my womanhood. He taught me how to laugh from my gut and how to appreciate a full album (because “playlists are the curse of the iPod generation”). I have tallied the number of evenings that started with “let me walk you to your car” and ended up saying “good-bye” after midnight (more than my years on this earth).

I have seen him fly and freefall, and he me; all the while ready to have a chat or not.

Love has been with me since we were in a strange theatre production about a tortoise and feral goats (because you haven’t truly been to drama school if you haven’t acted as a blind goat).

Love grew closer when he made me a mixtape (and several since). And even more so when I felt my most broken and he gave me a cuddle that whispered “you are not alone”.

Love grew stronger when we sat and cried and then laughed and then saw each other through chapters of change.

Love did not falter when he moved to Japan.

Love did reunite in Tokyo.

He now lives in the Realm of Senses**: a fairy-lit, wooden-weaved-floored, incense-burning, futon-rolling, gramophone-playing apartment in a quiet seaside city, Kobe. An inconspicuous Heimdall*** house, guardian of greatness.


And now ‘love’: A moment to unpack non-conforming gender-crossing loveships.

I have been referring to this Love of mine as ‘he’. And as a ‘she’, perhaps there has been premature assumptions that we are lovers. That my Love is a boyfriend-type. If not: good on you. New age media has managed to propagate the possibility of non-conforming gender-crossing friendships.

I did some research for this piece, of poetry or writings about friendships. My plan was to quote it pretentiously (because footnotes are never enough) to suggest how our platonic and intimate loveship was ‘one for the ages’. I couldn’t find any. Or certainly not one with ease. Rather a flood of men writing for women about how their skin reminds them of sunshine. Rather I rather a bunch of heteronormative musings about companionship.

Perhaps this is my offer to the canon: that deep love can exist between male and female (and male and male) without it being named ‘the friend zone’. That we can say “I love you” and hold their hand without it being sexualized. I clumsy offer, but an offer nonetheless.


I am grateful to be made witness to Love’s journey into adulthood and further into the abyss. I do not know where we will be in years to come, Joburg or Kobe, but I know that I will always love this Love.


And one day I will have a wrinkled daydream about our love in Tokyo.

* John M. Glionna’s words could not be upped here:
** On my watch list: In The Realm of Senses, 1976 French-Japanese film written and directed by Nagisa Oshima. Not for the conservative.
*** Heimdall, son of Odin, Norse deity and guardian of Asgard. Also a private joke.