*Higashi-Koenji is situated in Tokyo’s Suginami ward and is famous as a center of alternative youth culture and for its temples and shrines.
The summer my father died
I moved to Higashi Koenji.
The house had new tatami floors
And a fat white cat called Setsuke.
It smelled of cedar wood and mayonnaise.
It was also
By a video store,
The best in Tokyo
(with every X-Files episode
And sun-faded posters of Peter Sellers).
A lantern carver lived next door.
His mother left me peaches on our stoop
Coated with a thin dusting of mica.
One day, I walked to the station
At six fifteen am to catch a train to Mitaka-shi.
It was my father’s birthday,
The Seventh of July,
And overnight the station people had covered the entrance
With silver stars and
Long streamers like tentacles
(Watermelon pink! Slush blue! Frog green!)
For the Tanabata Matsuri,
The Star Festival,
When the Weaver-girl and the Cow-herd
Meet on a bridge across the Milky Way
Made of magpie wings.
In the evening, I eat grilled eel and
Strawberry cheese cake and
Scratch a wish with marker pen on a thin strip of tanzaku paper.
And I tie it next to all the other wishes
Bristling on a bamboo branch in Koenji temple.
Anne Louise Avery is a writer, art historian and the cartography editor at the travel journal, Panorama (http://panoramajournal.org). Her recent book, Albion’s Glorious Ile, published by Unicorn Press, was featured in the Guardian and on Radio 4. She is also the director of the acclaimed arts education charity, Flash of Splendour. Follow her on Twitter @annelouiseavery and @petitflash.