Ms. 9 of Pentacles: Commuter Heaven in Tokyo

I have so much makeup on my face it’s not even funny. Stage makeup is a completely different ballgame to regular makeup. Things never look the same on camera as they do in real life. I’ve only been in the spotlight for a couple of months – but even I already know – the camera always lies.

I decide to grab some dinner before the show starts. It’s Golden Week and most of the restaurants are closed for the holidays. I wish I had holidays, too. But welcome to working life in Japan. It hasn’t been easy. I work and work. And then I work some more. 

In Genesis 3:17, God tells Adam, “In toil you will eat of it all the days of your life.”

I came to Japan with nothing. I slowly built myself up from the ground. I hope the seeds I’ve planted will one day grow into that big wondrous tree of life. 

This journey hasn’t been easy, but it’s been rewarding. I have too much pride to ask for help – even from my significant other. I’ve always believed the people who love you empower you, not enable you. Raise yourself up. You don’t belong on the ground. 

I look at my watch. An hour before the show starts. I should grab a bite. 

It’s hard to find a restaurant that’s willing to make me a vegetarian meal. Slim pickings. I find a Chinese restaurant with an Iranian manager. He recommends the vegetable soup. He even agrees to put a heap of Sichuan chilli on it. I’m pleased. The manager asks me if the pearls I’m wearing are real. I laugh. As if I would wear anything fake. I’ve earned every dollar the hard way. I deserve better than fake pearls. 

“No, they’re not real,” I tell him. 

I didn’t tell him the truth because the question was inappropriate. Wherever I go in Tokyo – everyone makes small talk with me. People are curious, I guess. I’ve lost track of the number of times people have called me ‘exotic’. I don’t take that as a compliment. I finish eating. I look at my watch. It’s time. 

Lights. Camera. Action.

An hour and a half later, it’s all over. I make my way out of the studio and stop off at my regular bar on the way home. I order a glass of wine. I take out my notebook and start journalling. The bartender and I know each other really well. He knows me so well that he knows better than to talk to me after work. Everyone in the bar is staring at me. What is a foreign woman doing here by herself at 10pm? I used to hate the spotlight, but ever since coming to Japan, I’ve gotten used to getting stared at. After I’m done journalling, I ask for the bill.

“Safe travels home, Ms. 9 of Pentacles,” the bartender says.

I laugh. Being on the rush hour commuter train is a shared misery I know all too well. As a woman, there have been few experiences more degrading than being one of the few women on that late night train in a sea of men with black suits. I hated it. But like many things in my life, the experience has humbled me. 

I get on the train. I’m riding the Green Car. It’s unbelievable that this train is so empty. There’s legroom. Empty seats. Food on sale. A tray table to eat my bento. Would I truly be able to enjoy this if not for the slow and steady ascent I’ve had? I was Mr. 8 of Pentacles not so long ago, packed into commuter hell; sharing my midnight misery with the masses. I didn’t like it – but I accepted that it was part of my journey from the ground up. 


No matter how big and wondrous the tree – this little seed will never forget her humble beginnings in the ground. I close my eyes. I remember Genesis 3:19, “By the sweat of your face will you eat bread until you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken. For you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”

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