In Tokyo, the band are staying in the Meguro Gajoen, the poshest hotel I’ve ever seen in my life.
Keiko and I head there about lunchtime to meet up with Caffy and the others. Caffy is in the café having cheese and biscuits for breakfast. The coffee is so expensive and she’s so jetlagged that the time of day no longer matters, so she’s ordered a margarita. Izzy arrives and insists on showing me inside the ladies toilet. There is a stream with a bridge and a gold leaf ceiling. Waiting in the queue is like being at Japanese Bathroom Disneyland.
After some deliberation about the prices we join Caffy in the café and get a quick look at the interior waterfall and giant Koi Carp pond that make up the rest of the hotel’s “river”.
Still desperate for caffeine I order a £5 coffee, hoping that I might at last get a decent hit and Izzy has a G&T. We help Caffy plan places to visit on her map, she’s only going to be here for about 48 hours. You have to go to the shops in Shibuya and to Kiddyland, we tell her, it may be just a toy shop but it feels like a theme park. Colin and Jason (the photographer) leave some of their stuff with us and go off to shoot elsewhere in the hotel.
Later Phil is outside for his part of the photo shoot, lying on the ground by the waterfall.
I don’t get time to investigate Caffy’s room, but it sounds amazing, decorated in a traditional Japanese style but with all modern conveniences and technologies. Apparently the band have got rooms that are even more lavish – but I don’t hear about these until later. After another visit to the amazing toilet, we join the band as they assemble to leave for their bus. Thom tries out his Japanese on Keiko and Izzy.
We see them to the door (this hotel has a huge passageway for a lobby) and then we leave to have another look around Harajuku. We all end up in Kiddyland, and I buy a plethora of Afroken stuff (a dog with a rainbow afro hair-do from the Hello Kitty stable) and a T-shirt for Tim. It is red and has a scooter on it with the words ‘radio flyer’, which seems appropriate.
We eat pizza and work ourselves up to the trip to Yokohama. We look in Tower Records and have a beer, then take the Chikatetsu to Shin-Yokohama station where we call out “Ya-Chan!” until we spot Yasuko and her boyfriend Yama-chan who are waiting to take us to the venue in his Landrover Discovery.
I’m eager to be early tonight, the others have standing tickets and somehow make it to front and centre on the floor near the stage. It’s a big arena, Atsuko comes with me and we discover that my seat for tonight is in the equivalent of the Royal Box, she translates for me as the steward explains that it’s basically the best seat in the house.
She is meeting some other friends and leaves me to it. I sit at the front of the box (although if I wanted to there was a lounge where I could watch the gig on a TV screen). I have the box to myself and I lean over and watch people filling the hall until Clinic start their set, dumdumdumdah… it’s almost a relief to hear the Ink Spots CD that has been the warm up music, even if its starting to sound a bit scratched.
Tonight hearing The National Anthem segue into Hunting Bears sounds good and I make my seat squeak jiggling about in lieu of dancing. The crowd noise is reverberating off the walls, I can hear them, the band can hear them and despite the big venue acoustics it is working tonight in a way it wasn’t at the Budokan.
Everything In Its Right Place at the end of the set has been a highlight every night, even when Thom can’t find the right key to start it. Tonight he quotes from REM’s It’s The End Of The World As We Know It at the beginning and when we get to the off kilter drum pattern at the end, everyone claps in the right places, in time.
Thom is ON IT. He climbs over onto the prongs of the stage, first one side then the other and gets a little fan contact from the front row. It’s great to see him moving about so much. I clap until my hands are sore and manage to keep up with the drum fills. The encores were perfect – last night is forgotten. I’ve found my feeling again. I go to the private bathroom attached to the box, wash my face, then fix on my minotaur sticker. I go down to find where people are congregating. Atsuko and Yasuko are my plus-two for the evening.
Inside, Tim is already being lavished with gifts by an older woman fan from Baltimore; Astral Chris and the American contingent have somehow found their way in and are mingling. I give Tim his present with a card on which I’ve written “Timseiko” (Tim’s the best). Laden with shopping from earlier on, I have copy of Rockin On (the Japanese equivalent of Q magazine), there is a big feature on the band and I intend to get them all to sign it. I don’t want to be frantically trying to do it tomorrow. I’m also blazing a trail for Atsuko and Yasuko who don’t often get chance to get things signed. I borrow a marker pen from the crew room. I find Phil first and he’s very nice about it, considering he’s a blur in the picture. Colin and Ed sign and point out that the photo in the magazine is from Paris.
Thom is already surrounded, but the others want me to go first. I ask him if I can have this to remember my trip. He has a glass of wine on the go and agrees with me that it was a better show than last night. He’s livening up a bit and makes a mess of my autograph trying to do it one handed. He signs Atsuko’s poster and Yasuko’s Ne Pas Avaler T shirt, he notices that she has on the same jeans as him. He doesn’t understand people’s fascination with that particular T-shirt… he’s washed his beyond wearing.
The circle around Thom now comprises me, Keiko, Atsuko, Yasuko, Chris and some girls but I feel like I’m doing all the talking. Jonny’s not around, a crew member had made an off-colour remark about him feeling ill. He’s indisposed, says Thom. Apparently he’s gone mad for all things Honda and he’s going to buy a scooter tomorrow. I tell him Jonny on a bike is a strange image – “Not in leathers surely?”
“Nah,” says Thom, “denim.” We can’t imagine him in a helmet. There are some jokes cracked here that go over the heads of most of the assembled ladies. Sometimes Thom has a very childish sense of humour. We go back to talking about the show and he says again that tonight was a better show. He does that rubbing his hands together gesture – like he’s feeling the warmth.
Someone says something about the way he was running about on stage and he says “It was a bit cheesy but it was sincerely meant.” Colin had said something about how tomorrow will be more relaxed, “Yeah,” says Thom, “Can’t be as bad as – where was yesterday?”
“Budokan,” I say. We’re agreed.
Izzy and Keiko are a bit drunk. Where have they been all this time? With Caffy? With Tree? Talking to Ed? Atsuko and Yasuko are happy that they got their chance to meet and get things signed by the band but neither of them have said much.
When we get outside, Yama is waiting in the back of his Landrover, having a beer out of the onboard fridge. We drive the others back to Tokyo and then go back to Yasuko’s place on the outskirts of Yokohama with Pavement playing on the stereo. Her place is full of DIY artwork and musical instruments. Kind of reminds me of Val’s flat.