Summary: Nino and Jun run a dream delivery service. Here are some snapshots.
Notes: Written for gomushroom for the 2014 ninoexchange and posted here :)
p/s I am aware that there are still drabble requests outstanding! Sorry about that, have this instead while I get round to writing them over the next n months ><
ETA (16/11/2014) - I listened to a bunch of things while writing/getting into the mood for this, and recently distilled this into a mix which can be found on 8tracks here.
El Sueño Magazine – Japan's only dream periodical!
A Note from the Editor
As always, thank you for your continued support of our humble publication. We are delighted to bring to you our unique insight into the ideas, trends, and people that shape the dream profession. There is nothing quite like chancing on a good dream, woven with care by a true master, which is precisely why our team has spent the last half a year expanding and updating our listing section. We hope you will have a pleasant experience trying out some of the gems that we managed to unearth.
On that note, we've also received a many letters in response to last issue's feature on the various dream crafters in Tokyo. Particularly, everyone has been very curious about the esteemed Safe Travels Co, which is an excellent example of old school dream delivery at affordable prices. I would dearly like to be able to say that we've managed to find out more about Safe Travels besides the fact that they exist; unfortunately, our team has made very little headway. Our freelance writer Keiko did succeed in putting in a dream order and you can read about her impressions on pages 6 and 7. She also managed to snag a card! The telephone number only works some of the time, however.
Finally, we hope you enjoy this issue. Happy dreaming!
When his last delivery for the night was done, Jun called Nino.
"I'll meet you for the midnight drop-off," he said.
"I hate public transport," Nino replied, which Jun took as a yes.
They drew lots every night for who got the scooter and who had to take the train; for three nights in a row, Jun had picked scooter, which was nice but also annoying because Nino got really grumpy whenever he had to take all his parcels in a backpack.
People on the streets were starting to head towards the nearest stations in order to catch the last trains as Jun drove over to where Nino and their final customer had agreed to meet. Jun had glanced at the delivery sheet earlier that evening and noticed that Nino had arranged to meet most of his customers at various locations near train station exits. It did pose a slight problem for Jun on his scooter, however, because he needed to find a place to put it. By the time he'd found a suitable parking space and walked over to the convenience store near Shinjuku Station, Nino was already waiting for him. He had his cap pulled low over his face and was slumped against a pillar.
"You look like a drug dealer," Jun told him.
Nino glared. "My back hurts."
"Well, the parcels aren't meant to weigh anything," Jun replied. He took the backpack from Nino anyway, and the warm, weightless something inside it gave a restless twitch. "Also, the spot where I parked is a fifteen-minute walk away from here."
"Oh. Great." Nino glanced at his watch. "Also, she's late."
"How were the rest of your deliveries?"
"Fine," said Nino. "Only two people asked to see my licence," he added, which Jun understood was Nino's tacit way of acknowledging that Jun had been right to remind Nino to bring it out with him before he'd left earlier that day. The one time Nino had forgotten, Jun had had to take a train all the way to Kamakura to bring it to him, and the dream had exceeded its delivery window. Nino had ended up having to construct a new one from the dregs of the previous one while crouched by the side of the road. Jun's job had been to make sure nobody tripped over Nino. At least the scenery had been nice.
It was at that moment that Nino's phone began to buzz in his jacket pocket. Nino pulled it out and answered the call. "Safe Travels Dream Delivery," he chirped, pushing himself off the pillar. Even his cap was straighter. "Ah, yes, I'm here in the bright blue jacket. Is that you over there by the bicycles?"
Jun turned round to see a woman in a fawn-coloured hooded poncho striding towards them. "Hi," she said, "sorry I'm late. I've got the receipt for collection?"
"Yes, let me just check that," said Nino, all smiles now despite having been tired and grumpy at Jun just two minutes ago. Jun hung back as Nino and the customer looked through the requisite paperwork, including the information leaflet they were legally obliged to give to everyone. He had spoken to this lady over the phone just two weeks earlier; this order was for a good friend who was celebrating her birthday in a little while.
"You're not Matsumoto-san, are you?" she asked Nino rather tentatively.
"I'm afraid not," Nino replied with a wry little smile. He nodded towards Jun. "He is, though."
"Oh, of course," she said, turning to Jun with a brilliant smile. "Thank you for a wonderful chat the other day."
"Nice to finally meet you," Jun replied. "Here's your dream." As he handed it to the customer, Jun saw the dream take the form of a lacquered bento box with a delicate gold leaf pattern swirling across the surface. Interesting, thought Jun, as Nino handed the lady the slip of paper she had to sign off on. It was always a surprise to see how the dreams turned out when they changed hands.
After they had said their farewells (and the lady had lingered a little too long when it came to shaking Jun's hand), Nino glanced at Jun with a smirk.
Jun scowled. "Don't you dare laugh."
"I'm not complaining," Nino replied, his smirk breaking into a grin. "If your charm keeps us in business..."
"Oh shut up."
"Every other delivery I do, someone asks, in that exact tone–"
"I parked my scooter that way," said Jun as loudly as he could, striding off down the pavement.
Nino trailed after Jun, sniggering the whole way, all tiredness forgotten. "Why, Matsumoto-san, how handsome you are in person!"
"Are you sure you want to offend the person who's about to give you a lift back?"
Delivery Address: To be arranged
Gift: Yes (Recipient Name: Watanabe Anne 90-3402-3394)
Request: For a curator who likes history and is celebrating her 28th birthday. To be delivered 13 April just past midnight. - J
A dream in which, while cutting through the still water below Nihonbashi bridge, you realise that you are in a different time altogether. The sky at dusk has turned a deep orange and you notice a bear standing on the other side in the mist; you and he used to play together in summers past. I will help you cross the river, he says, and he pulls the orange sky around your shoulders and wraps it around you like a blanket. Now you are warmed by the lights of distant cities in the stars.
"I think," said Nino, not looking up from his DS, "that Maru may have set something on fire again."
"Shush," Jun replied, covering the telephone receiver with one hand. "I'm talking to a customer."
The customer in question, one Ohno Satoshi, had gone silent on the other end again – as was his wont. The last time Jun had spoken with Ohno, Ohno had put Jun on speakerphone and had at some point gone off to wash his brushes, having forgotten entirely about the ongoing conversation.
"Sorry about that," Jun told Ohno, "the restaurant downstairs appears to have had another kitchen mishap."
"Again?" asked Ohno with vague concern. "It all seems rather dangerous."
It was at that point when they began to hear raised voices coming from downstairs. "I suppose someone will tell us if we're about to die," mumbled Nino as he mashed the X button with his thumb.
The office of Safe Travels Co was situated on the upper floor above an okonomiyaki restaurant that had been plunged into frequent peril ever since it had been taken over by seven new business partners who were determined to Bring the Flavour of Authentic Kansai to Tokyo. At least, that was what was written on the large sign outside the entrance to the restaurant, give or take ten exclamation marks. They were all nice enough, albeit very loud and somewhat odd. Then again, anyone was an improvement from the previous owners, who, in addition to having single-handedly adopted all the cats in the neighbourhood, had been convinced that Nino was their son's former classmate Buntarou and had insisted on referring to Nino as such.
"Aren't you supposed to be working?" Jun hissed, while on the other end of the line, Ohno was waxing lyrical about an installation piece he had seen the other day. From what Jun gathered, it was mostly about fish and the human condition.
"I'm letting the first batch rest for a moment." Nino jerked his head in the direction of the second workbench, where half a dozen dreams lay glowing and dormant.
Ohno was still talking "...and I was hoping that they could share a dream. At the exhibition."
"Oh, yes, well I'm afraid that's not possible," Jun told him hurriedly. "Think of it this way – it's like having sushi. You wouldn't take one bite and give the rest of it to another stranger, would you?"
Ohno appeared to consider this for a moment. "Hm, I do like tuna."
"I know you do," said Jun, glancing up at the sound of several people clomping up the stairs to the office. The door burst open to reveal a very exited-looking Yoko and Yasu.
"Sorry To Barge In On You," Yoko said, in the most futile stage whisper imaginable, "But–"
It was at that moment that Maru propelled himself into the office, elbowing aside Yasu and sending him stumbling towards Nino, who sprang up from his seat with startling alacrity in order to shield the dreams on the workbench from any harm.
"I said no running in this office!" Nino snapped, glaring at Maru and Yasu before looking with dismay at his fallen DS.
"But you won't believe who's here to see you!" said Maru.
"I'm terribly sorry," Jun told Ohno, "but I think I may have to call you back."
There were more footsteps, and the sound of Hina very officiously saying to someone, "Yes, here we are, coming up to their office – are you sure you wouldn't like some more tea –" And then the door opened, and Hina was ushering in a man that Jun had only recently seen on the evening news.
"You," said Nino.
"Nino!" said Aiba Masaki, baseball star and pitcher for the Swallows. "It's been a while!"
El Sueño Magazine – Japan's only dream periodical!
Safe Travels, Sweet Dreams
By Kitagawa Keiko
I am on the phone with a man I have never met before, and he is asking me what time I'd like to go to bed.
Between eleven and twelve o'clock, I tell him, and there is a pause as he notes this down. I am speaking to Matsumoto from Safe Travels Co, and he is chatting with me about dreams.
Anyone who is at all familiar with the dream crafting scene in Tokyo has, at some point or another, heard of Safe Travels. They are as well known for their mystery as they are for the quality of their dreams. I have heard their dreams described as being exquisitely everyday; infinitely comforting in its simplicity and beauty. Naturally, I have been eager to try Safe Travels out for some time now.
As somewhat of a dream enthusiast, I am no stranger to the voluminous forms and questionnaires issued by most dream delivery services; in fact, countless Saturday afternoons have been spent filling out page after page of my likes, dislikes, and aspirations. Sometimes it works out for the best, and I get a dream that is as close to sublime as I can hope for. Other times, for all my efforts, I receive a product that is pedestrian at best – something I could have dreamed up myself.
Safe Travels takes a different approach, one which many dream crafters avoid because it is both time-consuming and potentially not comprehensive enough. After my initial call with Matsumoto, we schedule a subsequent telephone appointment in which we have a chat about anything under the sun. I'm told that could last anywhere from half an hour to an hour, so Matsumoto considerately asks me if I'm somewhere comfortable.
We end up talking for close to fifty minutes about gardening, origami, and why my Pomeranian is obsessed with the cat next door. It is like catching up with an old friend, although, of course, Matsumoto shares much less about himself than I would like. For example, he is vague when I ask him how many people he works with at Safe Travels. He tells me that someone else will be crafting the dream, but that I shouldn't worry because they've been conceptualising dreams together for many years now. When queried further, he steers to conversation firmly back to my list of top travel destinations.
The dream is scheduled to be delivered on a Thursday night. It will cost between ¥5,000-6,000, which is reasonable when compared to the rates some other dream crafters are charging these days. Matsumoto calls me the day before to confirm my order, and I wait impatiently for the delivery to arrive.
At 9pm on Thursday night, Matsumoto's colleague arrives on a scooter with my dream. He doesn't introduce himself, but is nonetheless polite as he hands me the dream, along with a handwritten information leaflet which has been photocopied several times.
"Thank you for your patronage," the man tells me, "we wish you pleasant dreams from Safe Travels." And with that, he's off, leaving me with a fishbowl in my hands. Yes, that's what my dream has taken shape as – a round bowl with one rather placid looking orange fish floating about inside.
But I suppose you want to know about the dream. And let me start by saying this – a dream from Safe Travels is worth every yen.
It would be quite impossible for me to describe what I dreamt in a way that can do it justice. But I can try. This is my Safe Travels dream: I am curled up on the couch with a good book after a long day and I realise, not long after, that I am in fact lying on a good-sized mountain range, looking down at the expanse of tiny villages and hills below me. I have become a giant, and yet the sky is still vast as ever. I am so small and so large at the same time; when I reach up I can just about brush the clouds with my fingertips and feel the way they disintegrate into rain at my touch. A massive, brightly-coloured bird lands on the mountaintop beside my elbow – it says nothing, eyeing me inquisitively. We regard each other for a moment, but before I can say anything it flies off again. And because the weather is so warm and so perfect, I pick up my book again and continue to read, the bird circling freely overhead. The story I am reading is a good one. The earth sighs and shifts peacefully around me.
I have woken from dreams that I never wanted to leave; wrenched myself from them with a sense of bitter loss. But this dream provided a sense of comfort that surrounded me for days after. The bright, clear beauty of that dream is still in my mind's eye even as I write this. This is what makes Safe Travels so special, I realise. Other dream crafters send you on a journey, but Safe Travels also brings you home.
Aiba Masaki had first captured the nation's imagination in his senior year at high school, when he had led his team to Koshien. They hadn't actually won, that year, but everyone had nonetheless been very taken by Aiba-chan, as the media called him, because he was not only a talented pitcher but also had a dazzling smile. And then Jun had sort of forgotten about him because Jun didn’t really follow baseball, until Aiba had pitched for Japan at the Beijing Olympics and everyone had fallen in love with him all over again.
But in all the time Jun had worked with Nino, Nino had never once mentioned that he'd been classmates with Aiba since elementary school.
"It's not as if I could casually mention it in conversation," Nino told Jun later, when Aiba had left and Jun and Nino had managed to chase all the Authentic Kansai people out of their office.
"I suppose not," said Jun. "Were you two good friends?" Aiba had clearly been excited to see Nino, judging from the way he kept beaming and gripping Nino's hand. Nino, on the other hand, had demanded why Aiba hadn't thought to call first, but not before ordering Aiba to stand as far away from the dreams-in-progress as possible.
Nino finished scribbling something down on his notepad. "We were in the baseball team together. At one point in middle school I was actually considered to be the better pitcher, believe it or not."
"And then you broke your wrist?" Jun only knew about this because Nino had mentioned it over drinks one evening, in the early days when they hadn't had so many customers.
"Nah," said Nino, "I peaked early; he was a late bloomer. The thing with my wrist happened after he was starting to get scouted for things."
Jun wasn't quite sure if he was imagining a note of bitterness in Nino's voice – or was it nostalgia? Whatever the case, Nino had clearly seen the considering look on Jun's face, because he added, "It's not like I wanted to play baseball forever, anyway. I've always had dream crafting."
"Yes, without a licence."
"No harm done," Nino replied, resting his chin on his hand. "Aiba always liked them best."
"I wonder what sort of dreams you made as a high schooler."
Nino grinned and leaned back in his chair. "Silly ones. Plenty about winning Koshien; I never expected that Aiba actually would."
Name: AIBA MASAKI
Delivery Address: he'll pick it up
Request: For a friend who hasn't been getting much sleep
A dream in which you are back in high school on the eve of the biggest game of your life thus far, and instead of going straight out to practice you instead head to the roof of the school. At dawn the sky is entirely different, shifting and silent, and you glimpse ships among the calm sea of cloud, moving serenely towards distant shores. Someone calls you from the grounds below, and you turn to go, adventure stirring in your heart. Overhead, a great and gorgeous whale cuts effortlessly through the sky.
Jun squinted at the receipt. "This is actually… quite literal, by your standards."
"So?" said Nino, looking defensive.
"No, there's nothing wrong with that," Jun replied. "It's actually rather sweet."
"Believe me, that was not my intention."
"Oh no, I'm sure you were just trying to do your job," said Jun, smirking at Nino from behind his coffee cup.
And finally, a look back:
"You can't do this without a license!" the guy from Nino's Philosophy 101 class hissed, while Nino continued to put together his dream in the library computer room.
"Watch me," said Nino, not pausing in his work partly to piss the guy off and partly because he had five orders due that night and this was only his second dream.
"How are you even doing this?" asked the guy, surveying the piles of different-coloured string that were currently occupying the workbench beside Nino. "Did you learn this on the internet?"
"Tell me – hang on, what's your name?"
"Oh yes," said Nino. "I do remember you. Tell me, Matsumoto-kun, does this look like something you can learn on the internet?"
It was at that point that about thirty or so butterflies decided it was a good time to explode from the shoebox they had been stashed in.
"What the hell?" Matsumoto yelped, as the butterflies made their glittering way around the room.
"Don't worry, it's just your imagination," said Nino. "Well, mine, to be exact."
"My goodness," said Matsumoto, staring up at the butterflies. "These are gorgeous."
"I know." Nino smirked. "Would you be a dear and help me get them back into the box? I need them for the next dream."
"I'm Ninomiya, by the way, and the net's on the other bench," said Nino, as Jun buried his face in his hands. "I need to finish wrapping this dream."
"They're not even real!"
"Ma – tsu – Jun."
With some reluctance (and indignation at the bizarre nickname Nino had just given him), Matsumoto picked up the net and began to catch the butterflies with all the grim enthusiasm of someone weeding their garden.
In the meantime, Nino picked up a bit of string and a thought, and started constructing his next dream.
It was hard to describe how to craft a dream. Nino had tried explaining it to Aiba, once before, when they were in high school together, but it had been difficult to put into words something that came so intuitively to Nino. Nino's first memory was of his mother threading light and warmth into a couple of bits and bobs and transforming it, somehow, into a dream. Later, Nino had developed the same knack for turning the tangible into the intangible, and he'd taken it somewhat for granted until he'd started school and realised that no other kid could do what he did.
And most of the other kids hadn't been all that keen on Nino's dreams, either. Back then they had been fraught and frantic, landscapes in flux with fantastic creatures erupting from the earth and ploughing through the sky. Even Nino himself just made them out of an almost compulsive need to be doing something with his hands. Only Aiba had been mesmerised by Nino's work, long after Nino had thought himself too grown up for magic tricks.
Now, it seemed, there was someone else, Nino thought, as somewhere across the room, Matsumoto stood motionless with a dream butterfly in his hand, examining the pattern on its wings, which opened into an entirely different galaxy.