Sunday, January 28, 2007

Top 10 Rants

Don't know why, but lately I've been feeling really annoyed by some of the things I experience here in Tokyo. Usually I can just brush it off, but suddenly I feel like I'm drowning in it. Everywhere I turn, I'm ready to go postal and I've got to get over this!

Rant 1
Why can't people divide the street or sidewalk in half--one half going one direction and the other half going the other direction? I mean, cars move that way, right? Why not people?!!! This rant also includes the stairs in train stations which are clearly posted with "up" and "down" arrows, yet no one pays any attention to them.

Rant 2
And, why can't people walk in a sraight line insead of meandering all over the place like they've taken up residence on an ant hill?

Rant 3
And speaking of walking, why in Hell do people have to walk while reading their keitai (cell phone)? Picture a million people walking along at a quick pace, and then suddenly the person in front of you stops with no warning as they decide at that very moment to read something of interest on their cellphone! I can't tell you the number of times this has nearly caused a chain reaction freeway-like pileup!

Rant 4
Has anyone over here ever heard of holding a door open for the person behind them? How many more times am I going to get a door released in my face? Do I need to start wearing a face guard? Now I've taken to shouting, "Thank you!" every time someone does that. The really strange thing is that no one apologizes!

Rant 5
Picture me getting to my train platform early. I get there early so I can stand at the front of the line which you would think would ensure me of a better chance of getting a seat on the train. At the last second, just as the door opens and before anyone can even get off the train, some obachan (old woman) dashes in from the side and pushes her way past everyone else to grab the only seat left on the train! Don't let those old gals fool you! They're as spry as chickens and as determined as hungry wolves!

Rant 6
Men, outside of a social situation or face-to-face meeting, are rude, rude, rude! For all that bowing and humility they show on the TV news when they've been caught falsifying their company's financial reports, their manners fly out the window once they leave the office. Men here feel it's their inalienable right to go first or be first, and what's worse is that the women here accept that! Men do not hold doors open for women, pull chairs out, help with coats, carry packages, or do anything else that sets gentlemen apart from. . .from. . .whatever is the opposite of gentlemen!

Rant 7
Bicycles are a menace and anyone riding one should be exiled to some country where there are only mountains and rocks! Bicyclists and pedestrians are two opposing forces that should never come together in a crowded city of 30 million people. I'm fed up with dodging bicycles and if I hear one more chirp from those ridiculous bicycle warning bells, I'm going to jam my umbrella into their spokes!

Rant 8
Speaking of bicycles, what size brain do you think it takes to not realize that you shouldn't park directly in front of doors to shops, banks, grocery stores, etc.? This seems so obvious, yet everywhere I go, there are those damned bicycles to climb over!

Rant 8
Double and triple bagging. Is it really necessary to put my newly purchased undies inside a small bag, seal it with tape, and then place that bag inside another larger bag which is also sealed with tape? If I buy a bottle of dish soap when I'm at the supermarket, does that need to go inside a separate bag before it goes into a larger bag? When I buy a bag of pickeled vegetables that's already factory sealed and isn't leaking on grocery shelves, why is it necessary to put them inside separate little bags before they go inside my shopping bag?

Rant 10
Do mothers here not realize that they should hold the hands of their very young children while on escalators? I nearly had a heart attack one day when I saw a little girl, about 4 years old, race up ahead of her mother and FALL TWO STEPS AWAY FROM THE TOP OF THE ESCALATOR WITH HER HANDS SPREAD OUT IN FRONT OF HER! I was too far away to quickly yank her up, but somehow she stood up at the last split second before her hands could go into the disappearing step! The mother looked oblivious to the danger. I almost never see mothers holding their children's hands, even when they're getting on and off trains. I've heard stories here enough times about small children falling between the trains and the platforms to think people would be a little more careful with their children. While infant mortality rates are among the lowest in the world at birth, the statistics shoot up frighteningly high between 2 and 4 years old.

So those are my rants. I just needed to get them off my chest. I'm really not an angry, miserable person. Really. . .


Gaijin Girl said...

at, as you know, i know i have a fair idea how you feel and i think it's natural that we do feel it. i just find it so reassuring that someone else is going through it too!
having said that, i think there's something in the air as a lot of people are going stir crazy this month.
hang in there!

Courtney said...

I don't know if this will help, but I will comment a bit.

I think the response in this big, crowded city in order to keep sane when crushed by dozens of your closest strangers, is to completely ignore their existence, up until the point you make eye contact with them. Once you have acknowledged someone is there, you have to make some kind of gesture or fulfill some kind of cultural obligation. Most people just keep their eyes in the wild grey-and-cement yonder and pretend they are alone; really acknowledging others here is extraordinary and often uncomfortable.

People blow past me, rudely, all the time. But I do it back when I am in a hurry. It's what I see happen and around me and try not to take it to hard when someone is a complete ass. When your crammed into a meat wagon of a train or station, its hard to apologize every one of the twenty people you probably brush by or bump or are brushed and bumped by... I would never do this in Seattle, where the volume is nowhere near the same and people would not tolerate it.

As for 'gentlemen,' the idea is culturally foreign to Japan. Women traditionally followed a few paces behind their men, and didn't expect to be nurtured in quite the way western chivalry dictates. Both systems have their own built-in chauvenism -- one simply ignores the female and the other treats her as someone who is incapable of opening her own door or seating herself. I don't mind the pampering from time to time, but the root of the behavior is no better on either side of the cultural divide.

A couple of good Japanese words for in the store, which you have to say fast if you want to beat the service folk to their tasks:
furo iranai desu. = I don't need a bag.
sonomama de ii desu. = it's fine as it is.

As for the kiddies, I have seen parents walking up the street as their child wailed meters away. In most of these cases the child is young enough to still cry, but still sufficiently mobile to walk alone. My interpretation is that the point is a mother will not acknowledge behavior at that age which is not appropriate. I don't think this is perceived as negligent, merely intolerant of whatever behavior is currently being displayed.

Japanese mothers after toddlerdom are not the same nurturers we look on the west. They have a mission in mind for their children and will push junior to achieve it. They are sometimes more taskmasters than parents... In exchange for doing the academics well, kids have everything else provided for them and few other responsibilities. At times it resembles more of a business relationship than you'd strictly like.

The escalator woman was being negligent, but you probably would have scared the shit out of her if you'd touched her child. Not that you shouldn't help a kid in danger, but that would have been complicated -- at the very least, the woman would have probably felt humiliated.

I'd disagree that parents don't hold their kids' hands... I see it frequently with small children who are not in arms or in a stroller. I think in areas that are perceived as safe kids are given freer reign, and that can at times inspire my own nerves.

My biggest pet peeve, really my only one at this point, is how a train's seats can be nearly full, and frequently the ones on either side of me are the last to be taken. Makes me feel like a regular pariah -- I feel like people are too afraid to sit next to me, like sitting next to a foreigner is too daunting! For me, the idea that someone who will never acknowledge me or anyone else on the train can't handle taking a load off next to me... But it may be in my head, I never like to be left out, even if I am being crushed on either side.

Absolutely Tokyo! said...

GG - thanks for your comments. I know you know that i know that you know -- now this is soounding just plain silly! Anyway, yes, we both are experiencing this simultaneously, and as you said, it seems that other people I talk to are feeling the same way lately. I've gone through little bouts of this before, but right now it seems intensely amplified. So, let's both hang in there!

Court - thanks for your comments, too! It's a terrible feeling, I think, to feel unseen by others, yet it happens here all the time. Makes me sad for the Japanese that lives must be led occupying that bubble of loneliness. Here they are, constantly on their keiteis, yet when I see a group of "friends" standing together, they're all on their keiteis ignoring the friends they are with! Maybe being face to face is too strong a reality and it feels safer to drift off into that realm of annonymnity or separation.

I'll try to remember the phrases you mentioned, although I think I'm incapable of learning--or rather retaining--anything related to foreign languages. I'm just glad I don't have to teach ME! I'm the student all teachers cringe about having to teach!

And as for the empty seats next to you on the train, even when the train is packed, it happens to me, too. Do we look that frightening to the Japanese, or are they just too shy to feel comfortable sitting next to us? I don't know what the answer is, but I agree that it can make one feel very, very unwelcome--not that it's probably intentional. It just is what it is. And that, my dear, is Tokyo.

RICH said...

these are all very valid rants. I agree with you about the walking thing... it's been a pet peeve of mine.

EuroTrippen said...

With the exception of 9 & 10- I could apply these to Germany as well. I feel your pain!

(most of it anyway)

Absolutely Tokyo! said...

Rich - thanks for checking out my blog! Hope you'll come back for more--well, maybe not more rants, but, whatever. . .

Hi ET! Interesting that you're experiencing much of the same in Germany. I hadn't noticed it to such an extent as Japan, but I was only in Bavaria. Maybe it's different there.

Amy said...

Hear, hear! Although the little old ladies pushing in front of you onto the train are totally forgivable. I mean, how often do you see people offer their seats to the elderly?

It's sad, but pretty much the only way these ladies have any chance of getting a seat is to butt in like that. So I always let them pass and secretly wish them good luck...