Tuesday, 26 May 2015

Tokyo 3 - Earthquake

Akihabara maid - welcome home for lunch
When the shaking started, we were in a toy store in Akihabara, waiting for my "Purezento youni onagaishimasu" to be wrapped.* Action figures in a display case beside us were toppling; the tremor alarm on my friend's phone bleeping. We froze. When it stopped - maybe 15 seconds later - we were ushered by a smiling and encouraging youth (daijobu des - it's okay) onto the third floor landing with a crowd of others, and we walked down the staircase, into the street. It was business as usual by then: the maid cafe girls in the street handing out flyers, the head maid with the furry paw mitts and huge smile chirping her enticements to "come home" into a microphone from a second floor balcony.
*One of the few phrases I thought I had mastered while living in Tokyo, gift wrapping service is complimentary pretty much everywhere here - and the Japanese sure know how to wrap a gift! I recently discovered I'd been saying it all wrong, which accounts for a lot of strange looks... though it got the job done. 

When we went back in to collect my package, staff was righting displays. My son's heart was racing, but he soon recovered. The impact was fleeting: an exciting interlude on his quest to buy something in Japan. His mission: a plastic model of a video game character, already assembled, that he could decorate himself.
After the quake: Help! I've fallen and I can't get up!
We went on to two more sensory-overloading, multi-floored buildings full of plastic death and sex related toys, games, figurines and models, including a massive collection of replica guns, which could be handled, while wearing white gloves. No photos allowed. My son was in heaven. I was bored stiff, and irritated. My friend declared it "Boy Day". Giddy, my son rattled off the names of most of the inventory, including guns from previous, current and imaginary conflicts. This one's from Metal Gear Solid. This one's so-and-so's favourite gun. How does a 12 year old have a favourite gun?!

Why, I oughta... make you dinner?
It's an uncomfortable feeling: his knowledge impresses and amazes me, his wide-eyed excitement is genuine and pure. The destruction-centric, war-glorifying, (usually) hyper-sexualized genre of game and art we were drenched in all day disgusts me. It scares me. It fills me with dread and despair for the future - my son's, and mankind's.

Years ago, near the beginning of our quest for help parenting our son, I brought up the subject of war toys with our child psychiatrist. I was counseled against banning them. Forcing the issue would make them more compelling, make something out of nothing - most boys play with guns, using whatever is on hand: a toy, a stick, their finger. It's helping him work through something. The advice was reassuring. At the time.

But where to draw the line? Some of the most fun we've had as a family has been pelting each other with Nerf bullets in our living room battlefield. My son customizes a weapon for each of us, considering the user's size, strength, experience, ability. A lot of frustration has been relieved this way, and a lot of laughter, good feeling and healing has ensued.

Are first person shooter video games any worse? Are meticulous drawings, or fastidious Lego replicas of weapons something to worry about?  When I asked him about his intense interest in guns he told me it was about the self control necessary to master their use. Is this about self regulation? Is it something to do with ADHD, the benign-sounding affliction that has wreaked so much distress, chaos, heartbreak and pain upon our family?

I am horrified to witness my son's gravitation toward weapons of destruction, but I'm confident that he knows the difference between real and imaginary, and that his core being is gentle and kind. At a recent parkour lesson, one mother remarked to me how nurturing my son is to the younger kids. My son: nurturing! Yes, he is, at heart. Thank you, stranger, for noticing.

Though my conviction may waver, I'm holding tight to the doctor's advice. Within reason. Whatever it is he's working through, I sincerely hope he figures it out.

1 comment:

  1. Your writing is amazingly evocative. You really are living a life. Upcycling everything you can. I feel like I'm just a consumer a lot of the time.