|Kyo wa Shibuya ni ikimashita|
People don't really look each other in the eye the way you do in the U.S., like walking down the street and nodding or saying hello to someone you don't know. In fact, it seems to be considered ridiculous or rude to do so when you're not interacting with someone. I guess it's about respect. It makes me simultaneously feel cut off and comforted. It seems like an extreme form of not judging others--I feel in a bubble on the train, for example, even when packed in with a ton of other people, and I feel so far away from them because there's no eye contact, and so there's no one possibly thinking about what I look like or what I'm doing. But at the same time, the restrain has got to have some inherent tension in it; isn't it normal to look around you? Doesn't it feel nice to say hi to someone just because they're there? So it's as if people here must go out of their way to refrain from doing this normal act, because otherwise they would be judging each other. Like, there's no pretending to not form opinions about others, so they avoid this by avoiding looking in the first place. It's weird and slightly uncomfortable, and makes me feel extremely aware of how easily people make opinions about each other, but also makes me feel like I can be dumb and wear whatever I want and not have to worry about attention. Maybe it seems like people would have to go to extremes to grab attention here. Maybe that's why I think of cities here where kids walk around dressed like anime characters, or wearing all of the extremes of the fashion world, just in their everyday life. That's what they do to stand out.
There's a feeling of people being really focused here, of things being systematic. People have jobs and families to go to and errands to run, and the trains are on time to the second in order to get those people to those places, and the greetings exchanged when you enter and exit a store are regular no matter where you go. Those people that you do interact with--in stores and restaurants--are definitely very friendly with their greetings. And everyone seems to take their job so seriously. Anybody in a store not helping someone is cleaning, wiping windows, picking up lint off the carpet. The people handing out ads and samples on the street or directing traffic around a construction site or working at the train stations all work their jobs so hard and determinedly.
For a city where people keep their heads down, there's a LOT to see. Ads, lights, buildings. People handing things out on the street. I got some kind of hand lotion sample that says "creamy up" on the box, and a stick of Stride gum with an attached sheet of monkey stickers. And the people handing these things out seem happy and...I wanna say proud, but not the American kind of pride: outward and superficial, rather than inward and earned. These people just seemed content. I think of that Ghandi quote: whatever you do may be insignificant, but it is very important that you do it. Or something like that. These people made me feel like it was very important that they hand me gum and lotion, and very important that I take it from them. And I thanked all of them for it. And they thanked me graciously in return.
But there are two things today that we did that gave me that fuzzy feeling of "omg I'm in Japan," and made me smile like a tourist.
First, I put a 100 yen coin in a vending machine and pushed the button for a little bottled latte drink. And when I reached in to grab it, it was hot.
Then, we stumbled upon a little temple area very close to our hotel, right smack in the middle of a business district. A man and woman were dressed like they were ready to go to work, suit and nice jacket and boots and all. They each walked up to the front of one of the temple buildings, where a giant rope with a tassel at its end hung, and took turns--first the man, then the woman--praying.
I also saw a sign for hot coffee color...oishii
I also saw a cat-snatching van, a black baby doll dressed like santa clause taking a piss at one of the train stops (I knew they had a funny take on our holiday), and a good old 7 & iHoldings
Kyo wa hare ga tsuyoi desu. It couldn't have been better.