Owing to a bout of travel-planning-related foolishness, J and I landed in Tokyo in the midst of a very torrid summer indeed.
Why foolish? Oh, heat, schmeat, declared J exuberantly, we must go to the Land of the Rising Sun, and what better occasion? (It was his birthday.) And yours truly, ever the sucker for a good sales pitch when delivered by a handsome boy, fell in enthusiastically.
Alas and alack, our dreams vanished in a haze of delirium-inducing temperatures. Mid-morning when we set out the first day, we were buoyed by a very excellent breakfast spread that included marvelous coffee and a picture of J that will go on to become a true classic. No wonder then that we were reluctant to admit, just a few minutes into the jaunt, the painfully obvious fact: an excruciating death was at hand, failing which, a gigantic embarrassment brought on by fainting in public like the couple of foreign fools that we were.
Tokyo, you see, is hell itself in late July. It wrings the very will to live with each step, never mind the marvels all around. And the good Japanese, bless their hearts, did not see fit to install benches anywhere in this wondrous city: so once out of the chilled environs of the hotel, one is cast, vulnerable and weak, into the wilds of a pitiless, dehydration-inducing urban jungle.
Sigh. Post-sunset, post-cold-shower, we would stagger out gingerly. And it was only then that some slight signs of life would return to our veins. The city slowly lit up with its famed neon horizons. Alleys with little eating places and elegant signs glowed yellow and white, ancient beside the vending machines. The locals, the very soul of courtesy and good behavior, swirled past in their orderly millions. And finally we felt that little spark that comes only in foreign lands: Look where we are, look at this place!