(Written on 20 December 2009)

Night falls at four thirty in the evening here.
Temperature taking the plunge below five degrees at night – a temperature not too cold for our heads to keep going.
The darkness and emptiness lingering around the cold, windy winter night are compensated by the Christmas illumination of a phethora of forms. Chains of small bulbs dangling from trees, a web of bulbs splattering on the wall, flickering lights featuring flamboyant colours of decoration hanging from Christmas Trees.

Couples sharing the same shadow seem to emanate glows of warmth from beneath too, as the usual busy roads seem to have narrowed with people starting to walk in pairs, instead of individually. What a comforting sight for the altruistic, as from the bottom of their hearts well up thoughts of congratulations. And what an unbearing sight for the envious, as groans of curses carrying poisons of jealousy brew up in their heads.

Even the stars at night seem to shine more brightly than usual, or perhaps we tend to gaze up into the sky when the sight around us doesn’t seem that bearable anymore.

I hit the roads just two days ago and arrived at Shimo-kitazawa at late evening when the sun has already set.

As usual, cold winter breezes sending down thrills down the spine, combined with the heartwarming sights of illumination, cooked up a messy potpourri of emotions in my heart. I stopped short in front of a shop selling Taiyaki, and broke out a smile. The lady at the stall spoke nonchalently, yet with a quintessentially Japanese sense of courtesy and politeness, to the only customer standing at the counter. I bought one for myself, and was greeted with words of the same level of courtesy, or even pitch of the equal frequency.

The Taiyaki was not as piping hot as I would have wanted it to be, but looking at the bulk of items lining up at the display as the shopowners were preparing to close for the day, I thought it was inevitable. Not that it mattered that much, as I left the stall after giving the lady a smile in addition to the money I paid.

Strolling down the tranquil streets of Shimo Kitazawa, I was greeted by mostly shops with their shutters down, much to my disappointment. But that allowed me to focus more on those that were open.

I ended up in a cafe that caught me at first impression with its chic exterior architecture and cozy interior design.

I had a slice of ginger cake and a cup of coffee, and, once again, the Japanese spirit of service. Beside the table stood a towering shelf of English books, greatly contrasting the little vase of a plant with heart-shaped leaves.

I spent a good one hour in the cafe, before leaving the place as the last customer.

Even without the fluffy snow falling from the winter sky in Tokyo, beads of inspiration trickle into my head.