1/30/10: Tokyo, Japan
A common theme in this blog is that of first impressions. Before I go on, I’m reminded of a quote on this topic from the late, great Confucius. “First impressions are just a mechanism to tie you over until second impressions.” Please keep these words of wisdom in mind as I now begin to gush about how great Tokyo is.
Tokyo is amazing! It’s hard to know where to start when every single thing about this city is perfect. From Vin Diesel’s cameo performance in The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift to our past 12 hours exploring very little of this gigantic mass, I have yet to find a fault.
The first thing I noticed is everyone’s politeness. After our stint in Beijing, I was ready to shove as many old ladies as necessary to board the Tokyo subways. But right away I realized that’s not how things work here (this realization may or may not occurred after I threw one small child out of the path between me and the last empty seat). When the first crowded subway pulled up to the Nippori station, the mobs of awaiting entrants simply stood in place until the very last straggler got off. (There’s another difference between Beijing and Tokyo: people actually get off the subway here.) Then as if we were getting on Noah’s Ark, the new passengers slowly boarded two-by-two and politely took their seats. I even saw one younger male offer his seat to an older lady, who politely turned it down. The two strangers then bowed their heads back and forth several times and I can only assume they later shared a cup of tea and a plate of sushi.
After getting off the subway ourselves, I discovered that Tokyo residents (Tokyo…dels?) are not just polite and rule-abiding on subways, they’re polite and rule-abiding everywhere. Our hostel is a bit away from the main city, and some of the benefits of this include the rent being cheap and the traffic being lighter than in the city center. As we approached anintersection devoid of any automobile traffic, I noticed several locals standing at the street corner. They must be waiting for a bus, I thought. Nope. They were waiting because the “Don’t Walk” sign was illuminated. There wasn’t a car in sight in any direction and there were only two lanes to cross to get to the other side, but these people stood as motionless as an audience watching a Kathy Griffin stand-up act. Then the “Walk” sign flashed on and they all politely crossed the street. I can only assume they all later shared a cup of tea and a plate of sushi.
Part of me wants to see just how far these Tokyodels will go with their politeness. I’d be willing to bet that I could hang a 10,000 yen bill out of my back pocket and no one would ever consider taking it. In fact, I think within two minutes of walking down the street someone would tap me on the shoulder and let me know that money’s falling out of my pocket. And double or nothing says that I can write a sign (in Japanese of course) that says “Rob Me Please” and still no one would take the money. There’s a better chance that someone would would grab a McDonald’s napkin that I throw on the street than the bill in my back pocket. The Good Samaritan would simply throw the napkin in the nearest rubbish bin (no, not a trash can) to keep the streets clean. Along this topic, for the next four days I will keep track of how many pieces of trash I see on the ground anywhere in the city. So far: zero. Tokyo appears to be cleaner than Cameron’s dad’s Ferrari in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. I’ll report back if this ends up being true. In the meantime I’m going to find some locals to share some tea and sushi with.
(Yes, I ended this post with a preposition. I’m sure the Japanese wouldn’t care.)
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Picture of the Day: There are cars on the subway that during rush hour are for women only. Can anyone tell me what the reason for this is?