Next stop, Harajuku [JAPAN]

Lilia Watson
“The name’s Dragon Raiden. Faster than light, skillful like Ares. I am here to kill you.” Should he raise an eyebrow, or wear a mask for extra horror? He strokes his hand through his matted hair when suddenly his mother walks in, apron wrapped around her thin, lanky waist, her hair tied up in a low bun with two chopsticks holding it together. 
“Yusuke, what on earth are you doing? If you don't leave now you’ll be late to school.” Damn it. Did his mum just walk in on him talking to himself in the mirror? Without waiting for a response she leaves, sliding the panel door behind her. If it were a hinged door, she could have slammed it, but of course the sliding wooden panels prevented her from really expressing her anger, or rather disappointment, towards her son. 
Yusuke sluggishly goes into the walk-in closet, his feet still cold despite the tatami floor. Socks on, Pyjamas off, School clothes on.  Among the very small selection of clothes, stacks of Dragon Ball manga, Cup Noodles, a broken fan, nondescript pills, and an unread Japan Times supplement titled “Find Your inner Zen” lie on the floor. Yusuke slips on his school tie and heads to school. His house is painted in a faint yellowish white, with five opaque windows scattered randomly and a plastic, imitation bamboo fence. Looking to the right, houses continued down the street. Turning left, the same, each separated by a regulatory 50cm. 
As Yusuke walks to school, he suddenly feels his heart pumping. No, it wasn’t from the walk, nor was it the frail grandmother holding a yellow flag for the children crossing the road, preventing near misses with automobiles. It was something else, a sense of energy that washed over him as soon as he stepped out of the house. This was new, very new, but it felt good. The name’s Dragon Raiden, he tells himself. Faster than light, skillful like Areas, and with glory I will watch you fall. He’s got it, all he had to do now was to finish the task his boss gave him. To murder Hiroshi Watanabe. 
Hiroshi is only 15, but he acts 50. He wears a uniform that hangs over his shoulders, round glasses that sit on his crooked nose and an oversized Seiko watch. If you enter the school classroom you would find him nestled at the back corner, alone, vigorously writing unknown sentences in his book. Today, however, all the students, including the popular school girl, surrounded him during lunch. Why? Because he received a death threat. All students had received the same email, but it was obvious it had been sent to Hisorshi. 
How would you like to be killed? 
I suppose dying in your sleep will be the most preferable. 
Rest assured, I will be doing something much more exhilarating.
Of course, it won’t be simple. But I believe I can pull off the murder of such an insignificant individual. 
So, tomorrow, I would expect to see you on the first crossing before Takeshita Street. 
Hear me out. I’ve tried to overlook your bullying, your mean sardonic smiles. But I’m done. It ends now. 
I expect to see you there; if you don’t come it just proves my point. You’re a coward. 
Best wishes, DR
The school children continued to bombard him with questions, but all he could think of was the food that sat in front of him. Purple Ukari flakes adorn the Rice, giving a burst of sweet and savoury flavour. Beside, the two crispy golden harumaki are drenched in soy sauce and sesame seeds. A steaming bowl of tofu miso soup, Calpis jelly and milk awaits for dessert. First meal of the day for Hiroshi. His only meal of the day. And while he attempts to inhale the food, the students around him continue talking to him, all wide-eyed and eager for answers. 
A girl whispers “are you scared?” Yusuke asks “Who do you think it's from?” and blue-eyed gaijin checks “did you upset anyone lately?”...
Question after question, Hiroshi continues to nod away, ignoring those who pretend to care for him. 
No, I don’t think I know anyone. No, I don't know where my parents are. No, I’m not stressed. 
Yes, I do hate someone. 
The school bell rings. Hiroshi kneels onto the wooden floor of the classroom, placing his hands in the middle of a damp towel and begins to crawl towards the windows. Behind him, a girl sweeps the floor with a broom, the teacher cleans the blackboard, and some students wipe the windows. It’s cleaning time. And all the while, as students gossiped around him, Hiroshi's mind was elsewhere. Or more specifically, his mind was in the back streets of Takeshita Street, imagining he was meeting with ‘DR’. Behind a mochi ice cream bar perhaps, surrounded by teenage girls dressed up in maid costumes. Or better, surrounded by his family members to let them see what they missed out on.
After school, Yusuke headed to the local convenience store, to get some food, but also start working. Yet, as he walks towards the convenience store he finds five older students, the senpai, walking behind. If they see him in a literal blue collar uniform, or just entering into a store straight after school, they will kill him. The senpai must not be upset: they must be respected, and they must be feared. They would kick and torture him and report him to the principal. No, he would go after he got home.
As Yusuke walks home he thinks of the letter. What joy it was, sending the email. Getting to see Hiroshi’s hands start to tremble, the color draining out of his face during class was the best he had felt in a long time. What a coward. 
The bento man, as expected, lived in a bento store. When Yusuke enters through the small door adorned with red lanterns, he is invited with the scent of oil, meat and the sweat of Japanese salary men. A customer pours miso soup into a plastic bowl while the other picks out fried chicken and boiled egg. The yolk is orange, verging on red. Two children squabble over who gets to have the last packet of some caramelized sweet potato. Behind the counter, Yusuke sees the bento man wearing a serious grin. His head shakes as he mumbles out numbers, not bothering to greet the customers. Except for Yusuke. When the young school boy enters the cook shakily drops his head to a bow and pushes the customers out. “Oo Yusuke, have you laid out your plant? I expect to see a body here by tomorrow, midnight.” 
The bento man wiped his oily hands on his oily apron. 
“Yes, master,” Yusuke replies. “An enemy of yours is an enemy of mine. I have respected you ever since I found your store. You have fed me every day, and I intend to pay you back.” He speaks in such a formal manner that he doesn’t even address his teachers at school with such sophistication.“Now give me the details. We don’t want any mishaps.” he says. “No sir. I have already sent an email to him, deliberately peppered with misspellings and grammatical errors. I told him to meet me on the first street, turning right from Takeshita street. Knowing his personality, I know he is too much of a coward to actually go, but I suspect he will at least attempt to go near. The way he dresses is distinct; he wears a basic baseball jersey with black trousers and school shoes. He’s poor so he usually wears the same clothes during the weekend and uniform during the week.”
Under the sign "GETTING PREPARED," a woman in a boatneck dress tried to peek into the shop's frosted window. The bento vendor waved her off and locked the door. Frustrated, she tripped over a rock, drawing chuckles from onlookers. Inside, the vendor and his companion carried on, unfazed.
“Among the teenagers cosplaying as maids, it's pretty easy to spot him. Anyways, my point is, his egocentric personality will entice him to meet me there. Except, I won’t be there, you will.”
The bento man stared straight into Kazushi’s black pupil. “I said I wanted nothing to do with the actual plan. I ordered you, not the…”
“No, I know. You will be on the street just in case. The real murder will happen elsewhere.”
Ought to go to prison for such unlawful acts, the bento man thinks. 
“He often goes to lawson no matter where his destination is. Now here’s the thing.” The bento man leans in so closely he nearly tips over.
“I applied for a job there, and I just started working there last week. The people at convenience stores are usually foreigners, so they don’t really know what they're doing. I, however, have been born and raised in the bustling central Tokyo, know precisely what to do, so they would depend on me for everything. When he purchases a meal, I would poison it with strychnin. And he will buy a meal. “
The bento man raised an eyebrow. "But he’s poor, why would he spend--"
“Well, I will just prop it into his outdoor shoes when he goes into school. He's hungry, always is. I suppose that's inevitable since his parent’s aren't  there to cook him a meal everyday. “
“And there you have it. It’s off with the head for the son that should’ve been yours.”
It’s been 6 hours since the email. In an hour’s time Hiroshi would arrive in Takeshita street, confronting the little coward behind the screen to get his life back in order.
The train he is packed, really packed. The train driver pushes everyone into the cart, forcing Hiroshi to stand face-to-face with a salaryman. The knife in his pocket digs into his skin, and he feels the black fabric ripping. Hopefully, no one notices. After two stops the people on the train fall out like water onto the platform. The Harajuku song rings at the same time as the five o'clock chime, creating a harmony that maybe, just maybe, Hiroshi will get to hear again. If he doesn’t die. As he taps the Pasmo train pass onto the gates to leave the station, a gothic otaku bumps into him. His hair is dyed purple, he wears fishnet stocking under ripped shorts and his nose is pierced. They both bow apologetically; nothing unusual. Before the right crossing that gets to the entrance of Takeshita Street, the blue sign of Lawson brightens the eyes of Hiroshi Nakamura. Just a quick stop, he thinks, rustling out his 500 yen coin he found in his indoor school shoes. That could get him a savoury yakisoba meal from the family mart. As he enters, a japanese man welcomes him. Inside the store racks of bento greet him, alongside flowers, vegetables and stationary. 
He asks for fried chicken and Nikuman,a pork bun. After paying the young staff, he savours the spicy, crispy chicken fresh out of the oven. 
Yusuke heads to the local garden centre, getting himself ready to purchase the syringe before he heads to Harajuku to get his plan into practice. What he’s doing is risky, reckless and unnecessary. But luckily when he enters the store he sees he’s made the right choice. The store is huge, and on this particular mid-sundary spring, the store is bustling with families and the staff are exhausted. In the pesticides aisle, Yusuke drops a bottle of sychranine into the shopping cart already loaded with camouflage items: rat trap, fertilizer, and a plastic pot. He knows it's madness to buy poison in poison, especially when he will receive some from the bento man, but he just can’t wait. To finally get revenge on the person who bullied him to the brim is pure heaven. 
When he goes to the checkout centre a man greets him “irasshaimase”. Yusuke’s hands start to shake as he tells himself to stay calm. No one would find out, no one, no one. He takes deep breaths, trying to steady his heartbeat when a comforting thought comes to him, one that’s as cool as a snowdrop: watching Hiroshi fall to the ground…dying. He meets the bento man, goes straight to Lawson and positions himself for the hours ahead. 
The target sited just as planned. Dressed exactly as predicted, with a grim expression too, which just adds to the excitement. Squeezed tightly into his sweaty palms are the roots of the strychnine absorbed Datura flower. The datura flower boasts velvety petals and emits a sweet yet intoxicating fragrance. Mixing them into the Pork Bun, disguising them as Burdock vegetables was the idea of the bento man. 
After Hiroshi pays his money using the pasmo, Yusuke hands him the pork bun and the famichiki (family mart chicken) karaage. Yusuke joshes with him, asking him where he got his good looks. He smiles. The truth is he was the ugliest person Yusuke ever met. He hands Hiroshi chopsticks and gives a bow. I suppose thank you was Hiroshi’s last words, he thinks. Gurgles and gasps didn’t count. 
Outside, from the corner of the street the bento man watches Hiroshi exit from Lawson. He holds the bun in two hands, warming them up. The bento man has never seen Hiroshi  in person, but hates him already. His eyes are brown, his hair matt black and he has the nose of his mother. His mother. The bitch. From afar he watches Hiroshi ingest the poison. As the poison coursed through his veins, his once coherent demeanor unravelled before their eyes. His movements became erratic, limbs flailing as if caught in an invisible tempest. His eyes, once clear and focused, now darted about wildly, pupils dilated in a frantic search for something that only he could see. Three women rush towards him calling for help. The rest stand quietly behind, getting out their phones, not to call the ambulance, but to take videos. A half drunk taxi driver with his shirt untucked kneels next to him and starts pumping his chest. A foreign man calls out, telling everyone to move away and give the boy space. Most obey, but the many scream hysterically, unsure of what to do. What should we do? What should we do? They need a leader, a man specifically, to have a set of instructions to make them follow their lead. The bento man watches from afar, a small grin reappearing on his face as the boy’s fingers slowly stop in a crooked form. When the people begin to go back about their day, the bento man walks towards Harsuhi, his face staring straight into the eyes of a dying corpse.  “Say goodbye to your mother,” he says. “I’m sure she will be pleased to hear how her own son died. It’s a burden taken away! I’ll let her know I got revenge.”
“What revenge, what are you talking about? I’m just a guy.” Hiroshi squeals.
 “You are a gift your mother didn’t deserve. She left me alone, knowing I was vulnerable, only to announce she’s going to have a child, YOU, with another man. If you were never born, IF YOU NEVER EXISTED, I could have gotten back with your mother.”
The people now begin to crowd up again, some men trying to drag the bento man away. He pulls loose, tugging on Harushi’s collar one last time. 
“The Names Dragon Raiden. Faster than light, skillful than Ares. And with glory I will watch you fall.”
The man’s face was inches away from his face, his oily breath blowing onto him. A student, the one from his class rushes up to him, pushing the bento man away. It’s Yusuke, all flushed up and red. “Oi, an ambulance is coming right now. What happened, why are you here?” 
That’s when it hit him. A sharp knife, thin as paper, cut through a white shirt, oozing blood onto it. Yusuke looks down, clasping the wound tightly as he wheezes with agony. Kazushi sits up, skin still pale but eyes bright, a smile painted across his face. “You really think I'm that naive?” The people around them scatter like cherry blossoms caught in a sudden gust of wind, babies crying with mother hurriedly currying their faces. “I knew it was you from the very beginning. I saw you scheming your plans with that maniac over there. I knew it was you who gave me the food. I knew everything.” Yusuke chokes, falling to the ground. Hiroshi ignores him, and continues.  “It’s funny really, how you didn’t realise. The woman, falling in front of the bento store was Mei. You know, the popular school girl. I paid her 3000 yen to dress up fancy and trip over a rock onto her crush, the senior, only if she recorded the conversation you were having. It was a win-win for both of us. I then secretly handed some more money to this otaku i met on the streets and asked him to videotape all of this. Ah there he is.” He points to the pachinko parlor, where the otaku stands drinking a highball. 
Yusuke stumbles out words as police sirens and ambulances approach “B…but you. Now, you’re still sick. How did you know me?”
“This? This is just some strychnine, it will wear off soon. Gives off obvious effects, uncontrollable muscle contractions, hyperventilation etc etc. Woop, there’s a finger twitching.” He laughs, rubbing his hands together despite the warm weather  “Oh, come on, DR? You’re the only one to read Dragon ball, and your constant reciting of your ‘The name’s Yada yada’ didn’t help either.”
Yusuke watched Hiroshi talk, but soon his balance betrayed him and he crumpled to the ground. Above, the building's lights blurred with tears as an ANA plane passed a haunting face on a billboard. Nearby, police restrained the bento man and Hiroshi, their struggles becoming distant echoes. Beneath an umbrella, a couple savoured a chocolate-covered strawberry crepe, their laughter a bittersweet melody. Faces merged, memories swirled, and Yusuke's breaths grew faint. As the doctors approached a sakura petal fell, landing softly on his forehead.

Lilia Watson is a 15-year-old student at the British School in Tokyo. She has an English father and a Japanese mother. Lilia was born in Singapore, where she spent the first six years of her life before relocating to Japan. Initially, she attended a Japanese primary school, which provided her with invaluable insights into the local educational system. At the age of 12, Lilia transitioned to an international school environment. Throughout her life, she has been fortunate to travel to numerous countries, which she believes enriched her understanding of cultural diversity. Such experiences have profoundly influenced her perspective and have led her to pursue her passion for writing. Lilia's daily interactions with people in Japan, including shop staff and other adults, have further deepened her appreciation for Japanese culture. 
Lilia has a wide range of interests, including reading, dancing, sport, and even studying. She also enjoys directing and acting during her drama lessons, which she believes aligns with her love for writing. There are no rules—you can bring mere letters to life. Writing allows you to channel your emotions and can provide a surge of energy or deep emotional insight. That’s the beauty of it. 

"Miso soup - Satsuki - included in bento" by avlxyz is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

The Author
Read More
A magazine for teen writers—by teen writers. Under the Madness brings together student editors from across New Hampshire under the mentorship of the state poet laureate to focus on the experiences of teens from around the world. Whether you live in Berlin, NH, or Berlin, Germany—whether you wake up every day in Africa, Asia, Australia, Europe, North or South America—we’re interested in reading you!