Tony Parsons

Diary – 6 September 2008

Tony Parsons visits Tokyo

The earthquake wakes me up. One moment I am sleeping and the next it feels as though I am on a waterbed with Hugh Hefner and four Playboy Bunnies. All I can do is hold on. There is an earthquake every day in Japan and most of them feel like mild indigestion. But then you get this kind, the scary kind, and you immediately wonder — is this the big one? When it is happening, you just don’t know. All you can do is go to the window and see if buildings are collapsing, roads buckling and the earth opening up. This isn’t the big one. On the Richter scale, it is only four Playboy Bunnies. But somewhere out there, people are dying.

There is a bar in Tokyo for you. A mad, perfect bar with perhaps four seats in it. The bar of your dreams. My perfect bar is the one where the only music the owner will play is Led Zeppelin on vinyl. The trouble is, in a city where the streets have numbers but no names, I can’t find it. So I wander Golden Gai, a warren of narrow alleys in Shinjuku where bars the size of bedsits play host to the personal obsession of the owner, who is known as the master. I walk into one called Slowhand and I am hit in the face by the opening chords of ‘Layla’. On a TV set, Johnny Carson is interviewing the young Eric Clapton. The place is tiny, just a handful of seats and a bar the size of a school desk. There are three people in the place, including the master. It is packed. It is brilliant.

Nobody will come to Yasukuni-jinja with me, the controversial shrine that hosts the souls of all those who have died fighting for Japan — including Class A war criminals like General Tojo.

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