We didn’t mean to housesit in Tokyo. We were settled in our little house in Kaminoge. But then we saw Doris the labradoodle and Lucy the lagotto on Trusted Housesitters and we couldn’t help ourselves. Maybe we were turning Japanese and succumbing to the kawaii (cute) vibe.
We decamped to Yoyogi Uehara. Doris is the oldest. She knows she was ‘first’ and has a regal bearing. ‘I am number one’, she seems to say. Lucy is smaller, shyer, and was stand-offish in the beginning. It took a full hour before she was licking my hand and cuddling up to me. Both are big by Japanese standards. Most dogs here are small balls of fluff, wheeled about in prams or carried in bags. (This is the only way they are allowed on public transport). It’s the kawaii factor – and besides smaller dogs are easier to dress in kimonos, lace blouses, romper suits and a whole range of doggy outfits. Doris and Lucy wouldn’t suffer such an indignity. They possess raincoats – boring, dull, practical things. Lucy gives me a withering look when I try to fasten her into hers – ‘must I’, her big eyes say as she looks up at me.
It’s a twenty-minute walk to Yoyogi Park through the narrow backstreets of Uehara. Parts of Tokyo are like a village. Small houses. Pot plants. Bicycles parked on drives. Washing hanging from balconies. We find treasures. A Sri Lankan shop selling jewellry and take-out food. Popocate the pudding shop. Eldnacs candles with it’s gorgeous forest front and ‘Le Matin de la Foret’, a pastel-pink and peppermint-green patisserie, which looks like a confection itself. We return without the girls and sit in the window seat (there are only two tables in the whole place) and sharing a chocolate cake and a cheesecake we watch the world pass by. Well, we watch two of the ubiquitous men with light sabres standing at the top of a road save pedestrians from death by roadworkers. Health and Safety in Tokyo is crazy. Some days we go to Arms Burger House next to the park for a great doorstop of a tuna melt or what has to be one of the best burgers in Tokyo. Arms is dog friendly, and Lucy and Doris sit quietly at our feet. They are the perfect cafe mates; they do not beg, but just soak up admiring glances from the man on the table next to us – who goes into a frenzy of pointing and smiling and exclaims – ‘how cute’.
Yoyogi is probably our favourite place in Tokyo. We return time after time. Now we’re looking after the girls it takes on another layer of meaning. We head for the dog runs. Here the girls can run free. Otherwise, by law, they must be kept on the lead. There are pens for the big dogs, and pens for the little dogs, but some dogs don’t seem to know or care that they’re titchy, and run around with the biggest of the biggest. An enthusiastic little Jack Russell bounds up to Doris and Lucy, standing on hind legs to lick Doris’s chest and say hello, but Doris only has eyes only for a ball – any ball, and Lucy gives him one of those withering looks. Doris finds a ball from somewhere and grins up at me, chewing and squashing it. I can’t find anyone it belongs to, so I throw it for her, and she has a whale of a time, jumping, running, twisting and turning. Lucy just stands stock still. I can almost hear her yawn. She doesn’t ‘do’ other dogs, and she doesn’t ‘do’ running. Lucy loves birds. Her whole body quivers with excitement at the sight of them. But she can’t chase them. By then she’s back on the lead.
In the evenings we walk to the very local park skirting the baseball practice area. The Japanese are mad about baseball. We pass a kiddies playground, and often hear the five o’ clock siren which lets the kids know it’s time to go home for dinner! One day Doris threw up next to the sand-pit. We were obliged to use one of the toy watering cans to swill it away. Japanese dog-owners not only pick up after their dogs, they carry any doggy business home with them, and even squirt water over doggy pees.
In the evenings, the girls take over the sofa, and we just fit around them, chilling and watching movies on Netflix. Lucy sleeps on a bean-bag at the side of our bed. Doris spreads herself out on her owner’s bed, making the most of the fact that she’s not sharing it with three others, but by 6 a.m. she’s had enough of being alone, and bounds into our room to play.
And it all starts over again. A week of walks in the park, hanging out in local cafes and just being with ‘the girls’. A much needed break from Tokyo.
Both of these are worth a visit if you’re near Yoyogi Park. There will be queues!
Arms. Burger Bar. 5-64-7 Yoyogi.
Nata de Cristiano. Portuguese egg custard tarts. 1-14-16 Tomigaya. (Take-a-way only).