The Tokyo Hotel on Ohio, in Chicago, is a shithole. It’s the kind of place I once feared I’d be found dead in. The customer reviews for this place are hysterically funny; descriptions of odd stains on the sheets and walls abound in these accounts. Lots of kids from other countries wind up being suckered into staying there as it sells itself as a “hostel.” They usually flee after a day or two. The signs outside advertise fish tacos and aushi. Um. . . no thanks.
It was originally the Devonshire Hotel years ago, but it’s been the Tokyo for as long as I can remember. I always thought it was more of a wino SRO-type place like the Twain or the Abbott, but evidently it is one or two roaches short of that distinction, qhich is not to say it is a bad place; it’s not outside, and in Chicago weather, you do not want your ass sleeping on the frozen ground. So you share a blanket with some cooties–it beats freezing to death.
This is the time of year the city for which this hotel is named celebrates the cherry blossom. The blooming of these remarkable trees happens in late April and early May for a period of 3 or 4 weeks. It is the time of year when young men in Tokyo take their girlfriends to the park and lay a blanket under the trees and open a bottle of sake and listen to the myriad of concerts in Ueno Park in the middle of the city. This is a very popular time of year to get engaged and this park is the place a great many couples do this.
The poor bastards.
A glance across the park is breathtaking; shimmering whites and pinks and reds, as far as you can see, music and joy and the coming of spring. I’ve noted before that public parks in Japan are quiet places; sanctuaries for reflection and solitude. I wish I were there right now. I miss the kites and cranes and giant ravens gobbling cicadas in mid-air; the quiet musicality of the place. . .the mammoth koi in the pond gliding silently, some of them so translucent they seem to glow in the dark water. I miss Ueno Park. It is one of those places where you feel good about the world’s chances and your own.