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Full Circle

Day 34: Tokyo

Michael Palin - Full CircleHachiko Square, Tokyo. Hachiko was the pet dog of a professor at Tokyo university who used to meet his master off the train as he returned from work each day. After his master died while at work, Hachiko still turned up at the same spot, every day, for the next seven years. In admiration of this display of loyalty the people of Tokyo had a statue built at the place where he waited.

Today I doubt if a dog would spot anyone in the great seething crowd that pours out of Shibuya station. Above the heads of the crowd, a reminder of where I've just been, is a clock already counting down the days to the start of the Nagano Winter Olympics. 860 days to go.

I'm on my way to meet Mayumi Nobetsu, a girl from Tokyo whom I've exchanged letters with for more than twenty years without ever meeting. She first wrote to me in 1974 when, to everyone's surprise, Monty Python briefly reared its head on Japanese television. The handwriting and spelling of her first letter were immaculate, the grammar ambitious. 'I am fourteen years old Japanese girl,' it had begun. She kept writing to me, sending protestations of love and valuable information on the erratic affair between Monty Python and the Japanese public. Now in her thirties, she is managing a hotel.

Our rendezvous is at an open-air café in amongst the walls of skyscrapers that have mushroomed all over the centre of Tokyo. As it turns out, there is only one table with an unattached occupant, a striking woman, all dressed in black with hair cut carefully in a bang, like some exotic star of the silent screen. This is the 'fourteen years old Japanese girl' twenty years on. I have had a lurking worry that she may have got the wrong Python, but she opens the locket around her neck and there is a picture of me as a thirty-one-year-old Sir Galahad in The Holy Grail. We have a drink and make plans for her to show me some of her city. As we set off Mayumi smiles gravely at me.

'I still cannot believe that you are here, talking like a human being.'
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PALIN'S GUIDES

  • Series: Full Circle
  • Day: 34
  • Country/sea: Japan
  • Place: Tokyo
  • Book page no: 58

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