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I longed for Tokio, even on snowing days, But look, a freezing, ragged beggar is leaning there on a wall in the backstreets what dream this man?
– a fragment of the poem by Hagiwara Sakutarō “A blue cat”.
Nick Bradley’s book “Cat and the city” pulled me into a cheeky metropolis that runs forward and never sleeps, although it has bags under its eyes. For a week I could peek at the life of Tokyoites who have grown into this city like cherry trees and can no longer get out of it, even some of them moved abroad because they are Tokyo forever: a tattoo artist, a taxi driver, a homeless, translator, office worker, girl, boy, yakuza bastards.
I was in a karaoke bar, played Street Fighter II, had an anxiety attack in the terribly tight subway, and felt like the master of the ancient art of tebori tattooing, stabbing a needle into my back. I touched the velvety pink-white leaves that fell on the windshield of the Taro taxi parked near Ueno Park. And could listen to Rakugo – the Japanese stand-up. I was literally like the tortoiseshell cat that appears in every chapter as an observer. Sometimes will hug some person, or other times he will get hit in the jaw.
The cat; unexpectedly jumps into the train heading towards Chiba, and is staring at Makoto. In green eyes are reflecting the whole of Tokyo. Maybe the cat is Bakeneko – a ghost that can change into a human?
Nick Bardley describes Tokyo without face powder. The short stories of the very clear characters; link into one intriguing story. The book flashes the lights of modern smartphones, neons in the commercial district of Harajuku, manga on a computer screen, but also an old Japanese tradition and Chinese characters.
Additionally, I have the impression that each chapter is written in a slightly different style. There’s even a comic at the end. Sometimes it seemed to me that the author completes the stories that I have already heard from the Japanese I met in Romania.
The writer is fascinated by Japan, where he spent 10 years and is currently completing a Ph.D. in Creative & Critical Writing, focussing on the figure of the cat in Japanese literature. His debut was longlisted for the Dublin Literary Award 2021.
If you want to travel to Tokyo without accommodation, unless in an abandoned hotel, where a homeless person with a cat is staying overnight, and you are curious about the face without make-up of a multi-dimensional city, reach for this item.