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Chapter Four: Meeting ShineOn

January 25, 2011

Raindrops beat noisily outside the window. In the small, damp, underground apartment I sit at my wooden desk, on the verge of snapping.

A full two months has passed since I bought the blue bra. My then-short bob has since grown out past my chin, and in the attempt to become more womanlike, my bathroom has become cluttered with 100-yen eyeshadows and cheap lipstick, plus one expensive Shiseido perfume that makes me smell like rose potpourri. My closet has acquired three new dresses from the second-hand shop, a flimsy white sleeveless dress, a summery denim one-piece, and a peach floral frock that, to be honest, looks Photoshopped on me whenever I wear it.

For all these superficial changes, thought, nothing has really changed. No one noticed me at work or outside of it, and the parties I attended with friends led to no new leads.

It’s not so much that I needed a man but more that I needed a companion.

Tokyo was a much too beautiful city to be alone: especially the spring months of March and April, filled with sunlight and blizzards of cherry blossoms and billowing skirts on the street. This was a time and place best spent walking together with a man, not walking alone with a camera in hand or chatting with friends in cafes.

Opening up my white Mac notebook, I google “Tokyo singles” and come up with a site — Lovestruck Tokyo.

In bold, garish red letters like billboard lights, the website promised fun times with “high-calibre Tokyo professionals”. I let out a quiet groan of despair, still not quite believing that I have to resort to this, but with no prospects at work and no bar-hopping skills, I decided to swallow my pride and take the leap.

With the shaky urgency of someone needing to urinate, I hurriedly create my online profile.

First, a name that does not reveal my identity. I would die of embarrassment if anyone at work was to find my profile on a matchmaking site. Still, the name has to express my identity, so I choose “Innamoramento”: it’s an iconic song from my favorite French singer, Mylene Farmer, and the name means in Italian “to fall in love,” though I found this out after the fact. For my profile, I write what I am: I am shy, sincere, reserved, simple, modest, and not a blabbermouth.  I am curious about the world and am well-read: I cannot stand drinking or smoking and will run away from places that have this. I wear mostly skirts and dresses, having never discovered the appeal of jeans and pantsuits. I throw in the disclaimer about being a clutz and abominably messy, noting that if one could overlook all this, I was a nice catch. Mostly.

Onto uploading my photo: squirming in my cheap wooden MUJI seat, I worry about how terrible it would be if any of my foreigner colleagues recognized me from the terrible rotating slideshow of people on the website. The upside was that anybody looking at this site was likely a lonely singleton as well, and would be too embarrassed to explain what they were doing browsing such a site. I suck up my anxiety and upload a small picture of myself in a light purple T-shirt with transparent, butterfly-like sleeves.

There. Profile complete. Now all I do is wait for a reply, wait for someone to stumble across me.

My heart beats a little faster, to think that I’ve taken a first step toward finding love in Tokyo. Or at least sex.

After several hours of reading the news, I lie down on the thin brown futon, and try to get some sleep. The room’s smallness is oppressive and suffocating, and I understand lately why the poor student in Crime and Punishment had to kill his landlady, after living in a tiny room for so long that it drove him half-insane. Even with my eyes closed, I cannot ignore the crinkling sound of papers under my covers nor the countless book covers that seem to jab my flesh from all sides as I sleep. Perhaps I should clean it up, for a more comfortable slumber. But it’s late, and I have to get up early tomorrow. I set my cell phone alarm to 5:30am, for my early shift, and drift off to sleep.


A few days pass and a few updates from the matchmaking site start trickling in. I click on them impassively: a 40-year-old, meek-looking French man from Kagurazaka has sent me a wink (ignore)… a younger American DJ who cannot spell has written me a message (delete).

I wait a few weeks for more prospects, and a few well-meaning ones come through, but after a week, the messages go dead. Ah well, it makes sense, I thought. Things done with minimal effort get minimal return, and it seems that this Lovestuck site is just a way for lazy singles to believe they’ve actually done something to It seems that this Lovestruck site is a  for meeting people, and I quit checking.

Two weeks pass, and we’re in the middle of June when I receive a wink in my mailbox. It’s “ShineOn.”

The person who I’ve come to know as You.

Liking the name, I click on the “ShineOn” profile and suck in my breath as it reveals a handsome young pixelated European face.

I am intrigued.

Your photo is slightly monochromic: the photo seems drenched in shades of brown and beige. ShineOn has slightly sallow skin, with dark brown eyes and dark yellow hair in a non-descript beige room. What draws me to this profile is not just his youthfulness, but expression: the serene, confident, forgiving and knowing expression of a wise man. I read furthur on this ShineOn’s online profile: he is employed (won’t disclose his income), works in the Bunkyo ward (a favorite area of mine), and enjoys working out, martial arts. He is looking for someone non-frivolous and knows a bit about strategy so won’t lose face. . . this is excellent.

I see under nationality, Czech. I bite my lip, my reaction is mixed: on the one hand I am curious, having always been fascinated by Prague, but also slightly wary of Eastern Europeans, who have a general reputation of melancholy pessimism due to their countless troubles from outside forces like Hitler and Stalin.

Anyway, it’s interesting enough that I wink back, writing something like hi, but leave it at that.

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