Sunday, 24 May 2015

Tokyo 2 - Observations and Video Games

Things that have changed in Tokyo since I lived here, 19 years ago:
  • So far, on this trip, no one has shouted a greeting to me upon entering a shop. Irasshaimase! This is odd and disappointing.... I used to like the acknowledgement. Is it just me, or have things seriously changed?
  • There's much less smoking. It is now banned on some streets, punishable by a ¥20,000 fine*. I passed by a sad smoking enclosure in a fast food restaurant, and we somehow stumbled into a hazy, stinking pachinko parlour. Otherwise, no grey, smelly clouds preceding us down the street, and no reeking, smouldering butt receptacles outside the stations. A very welcome change. I understand the Minister of Health is a strong anti-smoker, and there's a push for smoking habits to change before Tokyo hosts the 2020 Olympic Games.
    *About $2,000
Harajuku Station - Ground Zero for all things cosplay, kawaii (cute) or trendy
Shirts and handkerchiefs, drying in the sun. Dryers are rare.
  • Safety barriers have been installed on the tracks at a number of stations at high risk for "human incident". That is, as a measure to prevent suicide attempts, the track is fenced off, with a gate that opens only after the train has barrelled into the station.
  • There is no longer a perpetual grease smear at head height on the windows of the trains; it appears the salaryman has changed his hair products. He has also updated his wardrobe: I notice a trend toward distinctive dress shirts with contrast cuff facings, contrasting buttons and buttonholes, and sometimes a "double" collar of contrasting fabric. Sharp.

In the ryokan's jacuzzi 
  • I haven't seen one free kleenex distributor anywhere. They used to be outside every busy station.* The handy packets conveyed advertising for local businesses, and were thrust into your hand when passing - at least if the thruster wasn't paying close attention. Gaijin, who are generally considered incapable of reading Japanese, were exempt from receiving them. Warranted, in my case, but I sure counted on them, and I was hoping to bring a few home as souvenirs. Oh well, "5 finger" socks will do nicely for a keepsake.
    *By the end of my 10 days I have accumulated 3 packs; they are few and far between, but still in action.
    My son claims to find Tokyo "interesting - the whole Shazam. Sci-fi!", though clearly not as interesting as the ninja parkour game on his tablet. I'm really torn about video games. Yes, there is a certain, real accomplishment in completing a level, and when he's playing with "friends" on-line I'm proud (and relieved) to report he is the voice of encouragement and reason (Hey, dude, can you stop swearing?). But it's a poor substitute for real life. Especially when the real life in front of our eyes is so different from what we're used to. It seems to be only the truly bizarre that captures his attention.
Thanks, Mario! 
Or are video games an international language that I just don't speak? These kids spent a lovely evening, laughing and playing, while the grown-ups rolled sushi and reminisced.

Today we meet a friend for a wander through Akihabara, aka "Electric Town" - electronic gadgets central. Will this excite his interest, ignite a need for the newest system, or only make him yearn for his tablet? I'm a little uneasy. Perhaps a soak in the ryokan's jacuzzi will help me relax.

Outside our door
Tokyo 1 - On the Plane


  1. Chris Wheeldon25 May 2015 at 19:50

    These are great pictures - I especially love the first, third and last ones. Composition, lighting...perfect

    Your description of Avery's muted response to Tokyo reminds me of my own after spending far too long in museums in London, where the amazing became commonplace and only the really extreme things would catch my attention...that's when I needed to get outside and look at less for a while.

    Thanks for sharing your journey and letting us enjoy Tokyo vicariously!

    1. Thanks, Chris. I'm just using my tablet - for pictures, and posts, too. It's a little cumbersome for typing (pecking), but working out fine. Technology these days...

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    1. I have? Are you sure you mean me?