Originally published in Time Out Tokyo magazine issue 3 (June 2014)
Television personality, writer and professor, multi-talented Tokyoite Matthew Chozick talks to us about his life in the capital.
What made you decide to live in Tokyo?
I’m so bad at concisely answering this classic question. Basically, I came in my mid-twenties to do literary research, as a grad student, and was smitten by this magical city. I now live in Suginami Ward.
We’ve seen you on TV and we’re impressed by your Japanese! What’s your secret to learning the language?
I’m still constantly learning new things! When I encounter a word I don’t know, I look up example sentences to better understand nuance and usage. Aside from that, I read as much as I have time for and I chat daily with Japanese friends.
What are you working on at the moment?
Today’s been particularly eclectic: I was practising jokes for a variety show that we’re filming tomorrow, putting together a summer school lecture, checking a friend’s translation of a poetry collection, and emailing a zoologist with questions for a children’s book about how animals dream.
When did you first feel like a Tokyoite?
That’s a tough question! I was walking one day – soon after moving here – when a spry, elderly woman with a big straw hat assumed I could explain in Japanese how to get to Shinjuku Station. She didn’t hesitate to ask me for directions and I was delighted to show her the way.
What’s the sound of Tokyo that you miss the most when you’re away?
The sound of peaceful snoring on trains. It’s a charming reminder of just how safe and comfy public transportation is. Perrrrfect for napping.
Where have you never been in Tokyo that you’re scared of?
Is this a trick question? There isn’t anywhere scary in Tokyo! The one exception might be Kichijoji’s ghost-themed bar, Yurei Izakaya, which I’ve heard is teeming with animatronic creepy crawlies. I assume, though, that the people haunting the place are, like everywhere else, really kind and helpful.
Recommended cheap eats in Tokyo that not many people know of?
Come dine in Koenji on the Chuo line! With a budget of about ¥1,000 you can enjoy a yummy dinner with relaxing gamelan music at Café Bali Campur. Or check out nearby Dogberry if you’re into indie rock, plush sofas and late-night veggie options.
Finally, do you have any survival tips for city visitors?
Visitors: this will sound random but since it’s a perennial issue that results in arrests, please follow my survival tip. No matter how refreshing the Imperial Palace’s moat looks on a sweltering summer day, don’t go skinny-dipping in it!