The blinds are already drawn by the I arrive at the cafe today. The afternoon sun is flooding in through the gaps and it’s 10 degrees yet folks are still dressed in scarfs and hats. Feels decidedly like Spring to me (but you’d be forgiven for assuming it was the bleak mid winter).
Seated opposite me there’s a baby dressed in a red and white Santa outfit, sitting on her mother’s knee and banging her Minnie Mouse paper Christmas hat against the wooden table, loving the percussive sound she’s creating. Her mother is in her late 20s, wears a baseball cap and tries to keep the conversation going with her friend of a similar age sitting opposite. They ignore the incessant drumming, raising their matching green tea matcha wraps to their mouths and chatting behind cupped hands. It occurs to me this isn’t the first Baby Santa I’ve spotted here in Minatomirai; the outfit is almost exclusively reserved for men of a certain age in Britain, and I can confirm baby Santas are far cuter.
Yesterday morning I woke at 5:30, in time for the sun worshipping singing team down at the bay. I was greeted by an auburn sunrise and a warm welcome from my new friends. I like the way we congregate in staggered stages at this early hour. As we began singing we were a small group of four, but come the final progression of the Insen scale we were 11 people standing together, facing the sun and welcoming the new day.
After this our leader switches his synth for a transistor radio, tuning into the national public broadcaster for the 6:30 daily exercise routine ‘Radio Taiso’. Once the ceremonial stuff is done, it’s time to relax and chat a while. He takes a bag of seeds from his rucksack and begins to feed a flock of sparrows he calls ‘his little friends’.
“Dan-San, is your name Daniel-San?”
“Yes” <Laughter. I think/hope simply because ‘Dan’ means something else here>
“And you’re a musician?” They proceed to tell me of the professions they once did, going round the circle: a painter, a professional skier, a doctor, a postman, information shared in a sort of laissez faire attitude that suggests they understand deeply how these things don’t define them, and enjoy how little such things matter to them now.
I’m enjoying the chat, but surprised when they ask me to sing a song. Of course I was happy to sing, especially having been made to feel so welcome and been in receipt of their traditional songs and poems. I sang ‘Campfire’ inspired by my experiences of watching the mesmerising, vivid sunrises here, and one I always dedicate to my son when I’m singing it at night time in clubs and theatres in the UK and imagining the sun rising with him as he begins his day and it begins it’s journey across the globe.
They smile and seem to like the song, one guy videos it on his phone. I wish I had a better grasp of the language and could explain to them how much their sun worshipping antics have inspired me and my music, even featuring on the ‘Ten Steps’ collaboration with Max ZT. All of this runs through my mind and all I manage is a quick “Arigato Gossamers” and grab a selfie with my new friends, wondering what else they’d like me to share with them. All in good time, I guess.
I reach the cafe for opening time at 7am, and the High Street is largely deserted – perfect time for a DIY music video… two men are filming a teenage girl wearing a school uniform dance to a tinny sounding backing track. This is actually a fairly common sight for a Sunday morning here in Minatomirai, its wide pedestrianised streets and modern buildings providing the perfect urban backdrop for a potential TikTok smash. It does always seem to be a middle aged man doing the filming whilst a teenage girl dances.
Later I see similar scenes outside Kawasaki station, a hot spot for buskers, who come equipped with tons of tech, QR codes, fliers, outfits, the whole shebang. And the Santas are back! A whole band of Santa’s with the curious name ‘ The Beth’. Can’t help but notice that the performers are almost exclusively female, and the audiences male. Don’t know what to make of this, but will log it for future reference. It reminds me of a ‘DJ’ performance Taiga and I walked past in a shopping mall about this time last year, where a teenage girl stood centre stage behind her decks, pressing play and waving her hands in the air as a group of middle aged males sat on rows of seats taking photographs and cheering.
Back at the apartment we put the tree up, and I’m pleased Taiga is still keen to ensure the single surviving Wolves bauble we have takes pride of place near the top of the tree. He is yet to write his letter to Santa, but he hasn’t expressed any cynicism and promises to put pen to paper soon.
This Friday I have to visit the immigration centre, shave, wear a shirt, and politely request an extension of my 90 day tourist visa. You are allowed two such visa’s per year, but it’s unorthodox to run them in sequence as I wish to do. Today I started to prepare for this administrative shake down, printing off the necessary paper work. I have to prove I have a flight ticket booked to leave Japan, prove I’m not working here, I have work in the UK and, have savings to look after myself, health insurance and a place to stay here that I can afford – basically prove you’re not gonna be a drain on the state. I have things lined up as best I can, but the event still fills me with anxiety and dread. I’ll arrive early with documents in hand, a courteous bow and my broadest smile. Fingers crossed.