I lived in Osaka for 11 years starting in the early 1990s. Osaka gripped me then with its earthiness and immediacy, unlike the brittleness and coolness of Tokyo that I accept now as adjuncts to other things I have come to value, like diversity, flux and layeredness.
Osaka was where people just came up in bars, clubs and restaurants and talked to you – and where you inevitably got very drunk with them, weekend after weekend.
One of my favorite haunts during my first four years in Osaka was the Doyamacho area, a few hundred meters east of Umeda station.
for echoes, those old
It was at a bar in Doyamacho, I don’t remember which one, that I met my good friend Punch (real name, Fumio) and his friend Wani (“Crocodile” – real name unknown). Both were involved in “design,” which seemed to mean imparting or creating aesthetic advice or decorations on a freelance basis via kone (i.e., “connections,” patronage). Punch was a tough mix of waifish and wizened, lean, sharp-witted, with small black bright eyes, quick with his tongue, and always laughing. Wani was tall, lumbering, lantern-jawed and retiring. Both were about 15 years older than I, giving them something of the status of mentors—people who, although I hardly ever met up with them in daylight, looked out a little for me, or at least let me know what they thought I ought to know.
with a good-for-nothing
to peals of “baaka!”*
Time passed, and the last I ever saw of Punch was when we parted one morning near where I lived. Life had been tough on him and he had always maintained his buoyancy, but the price of it was beginning to show. I was living in a gaijin house, and, after a night on the town, this time he seemed to have nowhere to go. Yet, as we walked from Tennoji station to my place, he wouldn’t calm down, but maintained what had become a manic monologue. At the last moment I had to withdraw my offer to put him up that night and say “I don’t know” to his “What am I going to do then?”
It was perhaps a couple of years after that that I got word from an acquaintance that my old friend Punch was no more. I was invited. He lay there as if sleeping.
Much time has passed
Dare I stand by my friend