Sun on Woman



RENT $1,100 [rent-stabilized]

SQUARE FEET 800 [two-bedroom in pre-war walk-up]

OCCUPANTS Tomoko Naka [costume draper-designer]; Joshua James [playwright]

Why is a miniature bowl of salt outside the door? [Joshua] It’s a Buddhist thing. Tomoko is drying her hair. I’ll make some green tea.

I will contemplate the green silk cushion and the violet-and-sand-colored panels floating in the breeze. Now I’ll go in the kitchen. You have a purple iron. Purple’s her favorite color.

The microwave is purple too. Here are photos. Here’s her brother.

His hair is orange. Is he in a band? He wants to make movies like David Lynch. We got married in 2001 in Kyoto.

What are your tattoos—Japanese writing on each arm? They’re a Buddhist thing. They’re kind of a secret but Tomoko designed them. I got them done in Iowa.

Do you have a special tattoo shop there? Yes, my brother’s friend. That’s where I’m from. Whenever I go into a Japanese restaurant in a tank top, they say, Do you know what that means? I say, I think so.

Do people wear tattoos in Japan? Only gangsters. [Tomoko] Now, more other people.

Joshua said you’re the boss here. So he says but I don’t know, only because he wants to avoid making a decision. [Joshua] I’m in charge of my room.

You love the sun, he said. [Tomoko] Yes, I like to hang laundry in the sunlight. I just love the smell of it, kind of dry, clean. I love to take a nap in the sun. In Japan, my mom was hanging laundry on a balcony where we lived. I took a nap by her side. My dog was sleeping there too. [Joshua] I’m more the cave type. [Tomoko] He had blankets over his window. [Joshua] That was in the Upper West Side apartment.

You know, as a playwright, you need the dark space for the artificial to thrive. It dies in sunlight. Hey, the feng shui chart. [Tomoko brings out a pastel-colored drawing of their apartment.] [Tomoko] I didn’t even care about it when I was in Japan. [Joshua] One reason my desk is in that corner of my office. She ascertained where the best energy is. Really, the best spot is where the radiator is. [He consults the chart indicating the pink ray beam as separate from the blue.] There was a big kabuki festival last summer at Lincoln Center. Tomoko was an interpreter. They’d come here, go to the beer garden across the street.

The Bohemian Hall & Beer Garden with schnitzel, the men in their red vests singing. They’re not in their red vests every day. Today is a special party in the garden. People from Japan like it because they can smoke.

Where did you meet? At a Starbucks when she was a student at F.I.T. I was having an iced tea, just one of those things. I just started chatting up the cute Japanese girl, then it snowballed from there. [Tomoko] I lived in California, ’95 to ’97. I just never felt comfortable. [Joshua] She’s a city girl. Here, it’s 15 minutes to Times Square—boom.

His eyes, they are green like the color of the walls. [Tomoko] His eye color changes, like a mood ring.

I was sure that your apartment would not be all calm with shoji screens. In fact, modern Tokyo apartments are constricted like ones in New York, full of pink and blue electronics. But with Tomoko sitting at the low table, it is like an Ozu film. [Together] Who?

The great filmmaker—parents in kimonos slowly drinking tea and worrying whether their son will marry. And then the owner of a sake business has a mistress. [Tomoko] I know. [Joshua] I’d never been to Japan until we got married. Over there, everything is so small. I felt like an NBA player.

In Sayonara, Marlon Brando bumps his head. [Together] What?