Authors: Renae Lucas-Hall
Tags: #Tokyo Hearts, #Tokyo, #Japan, #Japanese love story, #Renae Lucas-Hall, #Renae Lucas, #Renae Hall, #Japanese Fiction, #Kyoto, #love story, #young adult romance, #romance
A Japanese Love Story
A fascinating exploration of life in modern-day Japan, Tokyo Hearts is a poignant love story that will catapult you directly onto the fashionable streets of this nation's capital and into the hearts of Takashi and Haruka.
Takashi is a young and popular university student who has fallen in love with his stylish and sophisticated friend Haruka. She is sweet and kind and adores shopping for high-end Japanese and Western brands.
Every week, they meet up in the heart of Tokyo, enjoying each other's company, and for Takashi, life is perfect. But the path to true love is never easy. When Takashi discovers that Haruka is seeing her wealthy ex-boyfriend from Kyoto, his life begins to turn upside down.
This coming of age story traces the lives of Takashi and Haruka and their friends as they deal with young love and the ups and downs of growing up in Tokyo - truly one of the most stylish, energetic and exhilarating cities in the world.
Cover jacket designed by Cathy Helms
© 2012 Renae Lucas-Hall
Renae Lucas-Hall has asserted her rights in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 to be identified as the author of this work.
First published in eBook format in 2012
All rights reserved under International and Pan-American Copyright Conventions. By payment of the required fees, you have been granted the non-exclusive, non-transferable right to access and read the text of this e-book on-screen. No part of this text may be reproduced, transmitted, downloaded, decompiled, reverse-engineered, or stored in or introduced into any information storage and retrieval system, in any form or by any means, whether electronic or mechanical, now known or hereinafter invented, without the express written permission of the Publisher.
All names, characters, places, organisations, businesses and events are either the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.
Ebook Conversion by
That which comes from the heart will go to the heart
On the last tempestuous Thursday in July, Takashi discovered the difference between the type of girl that a boy could like and the type of woman that a man could love.
The whole of Tokyo was heaving from the combination of heavy rain and sweltering humidity. Takashi climbed the slippery stairs to the café where he would soon meet up with Haruka and hoped that the summer rainy season would end this week. His light, waterproof jacket had helped him brave the elements that day, but his jeans were now soaked and clinging uncomfortably to his legs. His wet hair was dripping down the back of his neck.
Takashi was a good-looking young man. He had big eyes, the colour of dark chocolate. His hair was dead straight, very short and as black as ink. The bridge of his nose was a bit flat and his nostrils were small. His skin was clear, yet there was a slight puffiness around his eyes that spoke of long hours studying in a smoky and cramped apartment. Takashi was particularly proud of his mid-ear sideburns, which added balance to his face. Not many Japanese men could boast of having sideburns as thick as his. He always made sure they were the right shape and length after every shave. Takashi was also kind and honest and considered himself to be a proper gentleman. He’d learned from watching the occasional American black-and-white movie, featuring Gene Kelly or Fred Astaire, how to open the door for a lady, pull out her chair at a table and even how to expertly use a knife and fork.
Takashi shook himself dry at the entrance inside the café. After sitting down on the closest lounge next to the door, he flicked out a Mild Seven cigarette, cocking his head as he lit it. Inhaling and exhaling deeply on every puff, he thought about the phone call he’d had with Haruka’s father on Monday. He’d told Takashi that Haruka was out having lunch with her ex-boyfriend from Kyoto. She’d mentioned to him in past conversations that she had a friend in Kyoto, but Takashi clearly remembered her saying that he was only a friend.
Thinking about this ex-boyfriend made Takashi nervous as he waited for Haruka to arrive. It bothered him that she’d never referred to her friend in Kyoto as an ex-boyfriend in the past. He’d met Haruka at university and the combination of her good looks and sincerity had really impressed Takashi from the start. There’d never been any secrets between them.
She’d had plenty of opportunities to mention this ex-boyfriend to him years ago in their lectures, where they’d often whispered behind cupped hands, not wanting to attract the lecturer’s attention, as they’d shared their likes and dislikes, their dreams and disappointments. He thought to himself that she’d had more than enough time to say something about him at the university cafeteria where they’d spent hour upon hour discussing their past, present and future. She’d also had the opportunity to talk about him during many of their phone calls over the years.
From the moment Takashi had first met Haruka, she’d always been straight with him. She’d never come across as a person who would mislead others. At university, if someone was friendly towards her, only because they’d wanted to borrow her lecture notes, she’d never got too close to them. During team-building exercises, Haruka would always complete more than her share of work. She’d arrive early to meet up with the group, full of ideas, holding reams of paper typed up with the expected composition for their reports, ready to assist any others who couldn’t cope and even help complete her friends’ assignments if they couldn’t deal with the workload. Other team members would phone at the last minute with a variety of poor but well-rehearsed excuses, but this had never been Haruka’s style. Yes, she’d always been honest with Takashi and everyone that they’d known, so Takashi had to ask himself again: why had she never mentioned this ex-boyfriend?
Haruka would soon be by his side and Takashi was keen to have a conversation with her about past boyfriends. They’d arranged to meet every Thursday at six thirty p.m. in this same café in Omotesando for the last three weeks. A month ago, Takashi had spent an hour walking through Harajuku and Omotesando, looking for the perfect place to meet up with her. He hadn’t wanted to meet her somewhere that was too busy or too quiet. He’d finally decided on a café close to Omotesando’s subway exit. It was easy to find above the clothing boutiques Sisley and Morgan de Toi. He thought that it was important to find a café in this area because Haruka adored shopping and like most young Japanese girls, clearly loved her brands.
Takashi was quite pleased with himself for finding this chic meeting spot. Café hors et dans was its name. He’d learnt from Haruka the week before that this was French for “Inside and Out Coffee Shop”. At the top of the stairs was an open-air area paved in stone, with eleven tables and two benches set out to welcome customers on warm and sultry evenings. On those drier nights, his favourite place to sit was at one of the counters outside on the balcony overlooking the street below. From there, he could look out and see Haruka approach from the train station or step out from one of the shops nearby. Most of the famous boutiques had transparent front windows and on clearer days, Takashi could clearly see inside them. Fendi, Celine, Gucci, Hanae Mori, Shu Uemura and Emporio Armani were some of the international brands displayed along this famous shopping strip.
Four weeks ago, when he’d first entered this café, he’d instantly known that Haruka would like it. The interior was stylish, the customers were all well-dressed and very sophisticated and the staff seemed attentive yet not intrusive. It interested him that this café was most often filled almost entirely with young fashionistas. There were usually two types of trends here, both blending in well with each other; each respecting the other for their individual style. Those that came from Omotesando, dressed in the subtle shades of Yohji Yamamoto and Comme des Garçons. The other set, those who wore individual pieces that they had picked up in the markets of Harajuku – their clothes were brash, their jewellery outlandish and no one could help but look at them. It was not only their appearance that screamed
look at me
; it was the confidence in their voices and their shrill shrieks that said that they believed they were the future.
A waiter in long black trousers, a white shirt and black vest with thick, 1960s-style black glasses approached Takashi. ‘What would you like to drink?’ He asked.
‘An iced coffee with an extra sugar syrup please,’ Takashi replied.
‘Would you like anything to eat?’
‘No thank you,’ he said. Takashi stubbed out his cigarette and, noticing a magazine stand near the bar, he picked out a book on stylish hotels in Paris by Herbert Ypma. He could see others on another stand near the door on Barcelona and Provence in France. Takashi knew Haruka liked everything European, so if there were ever a time when either of them was waiting for the other, he thought that they could browse through some interesting books without looking conspicuously alone. He didn’t like to admit it, but he was a little nervous that day, so this book that he was reading now, although beautiful to look at, didn’t really hold his attention.
Takashi looked up and around the room, darting his eyes about, not wanting to stare at the other customers, as he tapped the table in anticipation. This evening, a balding man in an expensive pinstripe suit sat in front of him, chatting up a young girl in a mini-skirt who looked only seventeen or eighteen years old. To their left were two slick businesswomen – one in a black silk suit; the other in a flowing white jacket and a tulip-shaped skirt. Up on the landing, under cover, was a crowd of five young men drinking beer, all of them in skinny jeans and multi-coloured shirts. One of the five had a shaved pattern imprinted on the right side of his head. To their right, two young businessmen in well-cut navy suits were exchanging business cards.
Behind the bar, the waiter with the thick black glasses stood casually yet attentively, preparing his coffee with a waitress who kept shooting him looks. Takashi stared straight at her and their eyes met for a moment. She blushed and looked away. The waitress quickly went back to polishing glasses and he went back to looking around the room, trying not to look like he was staring at anyone in particular.
The waiter came over and placed Takashi’s coffee, some extra sugar syrups and a glass of iced water in front of him. Takashi thanked him and the waiter honoured him with a short bow before returning to his position behind the bar. Takashi poured the liquid sugar into his cold drink and slowly stirred it as he continued to look around the café. He noticed that there were woven baskets under each of the seats for coats and bags, something that he hadn’t seen before. The ceiling had an industrial design with exposed air-conditioning tubes painted white. Eclectic gift boxes were sitting on top of exposed walls of stone. Underneath, screen prints of leaves in indigo and orange were strategically placed around this split-level café. A version of “The Girl from Ipanema” performed by Frank Sinatra and the maestro Antonio Carlos Jobim was playing in the background, and this music made him feel like he was not in Tokyo at all.
It was still only six twenty p.m. Haruka would be arriving soon. She was always very punctual. Takashi liked to arrive half an hour early, not only to watch the ever-changing cast of characters that came together here, but also to watch Haruka come through the door and see her smile as she approached him.
Haruka Yoshino was one of the most sought-after girls at university. Takashi had met her in his first-year Marketing lecture. She’d only completed one year because her father had become so ill at the time, but she’d left such an impression on him that he’d stayed in touch with her. Even now, he wasn’t sure if they were just friends or whether she considered these meetings as dates. He knew he certainly wanted to date her.
Takashi’s mobile phone vibrated against his thigh. Thinking it might be a message from Haruka, he was quick to check for a call or a text. It wasn’t from her. His mother had sent him a reminder telling him to come out to Yokosuka on Saturday to spend some time with his grandmother. This would mean an uncomfortably long train journey in stifling humidity and several hours spent with his one and only remaining grandparent from his father’s side, who’d always chastised him and who had often complained about his upbringing.
The time on his mobile phone showed it was now 6:30 p.m.
Two minutes later, Haruka walked through the doors of the café with her usual dignified grace. She tied her umbrella with one swift movement and passed the waiters at the bar, coming towards him as if there was no one else in the room. Takashi watched her approach as he stood to greet her, appreciating the perfect neatness that she always represented. Her face glistened from the humidity outside and as she came closer, he marvelled at the way the raindrops on the end of her eyelashes gave her a certain glow. Miraculously, her clothes and the Yohji Yamamoto shopping bag she casually held onto were mostly dry, despite the heavy rain that was still constant outside. They were both twenty-one years old, yet Haruka held the mystique of someone more mature. At five feet, she was not quite as tall as Takashi. Her lissom figure and delicate features supported a swan-like neck. Her high cheekbones and light skin tone complemented her honey brown eyes that were offset by her long, flowing and lustrous black hair.