The alley was a canyon, cut between stout buildings in the shadows of casinos and tall tenements. Humanity swirled like a churning water; people flowed down the narrow path, drunk and swaying, lingering before street-side grills and signs promising cheap beer.
Muttering half-apologies in broken Japanese, he pushed his way past salarymen, who chatted quickly and moved slowly. The alley wasn't big, only three blocks long by two blocks wide, but given the thick crowd and how the buildings squeezed in and the tarps above blocked the sky and kept out the rain, it could have stretched on forever in his mind.
The air was thick with a sweet smoke. He closed his eyes and smelled the fatty meat, sweat, and cheap, acrid cigarettes, and which stuck to his clothes and hair would linger for days. He cut through the alley on the way to Shinkuku Station because he liked to walk alongside salarymen in thin suits, pretty young women, hair streaked with pink and purple, cooing at him to come into their family bars, and the older couples sitting on stools, holding hands, drinking and laughing together, and feel at home.