A mashine to clean glasses on the street in Tokyo.
What I really admire on Japanese is the passion with which they do things they love. No matter if itâ€™s some sport like baseball or swimming, computer programming, dancing, singing or playing an instrument. During my exchange semester on the Tsukuba University I realized how many different â€śclubsâ€ť there were any student could join and find a â€śhobbyâ€ť he could enjoy with all his soul. I guess it helped especially the â€śfreshmanâ€ť to become a member of a group of young people with the same interests and to escape the â€śdangerâ€ť to become an individual within different stable groups. But it wasnâ€™t the way that only the newcomers were looking for a corresponding club, the clubs were also looking for the corresponding new members as well.
Especially the first weeks of the semester the club members were putting flyers into the mail boxes of the students, during the evenings going from door to door in the student dormitories and explaining the potentional new members the advantages of their group. Can you imagine the shock in their faces when a door got opened by a foreigner like me asking them in English how he could help them? Hahaha. I should add that my friend Klemens (we were sent from the same University) and me were the only foreigners in our dormitory building. The poor club promoting students usually didnâ€™t know how to react and of course most of them werenâ€™t really able to communicate in English properly as the Japanese language teaching system concentrates much more on grammar then on conversation. After several visits me and Klemens decided to prepare a little joke with the next group (usually there came 2 to 3 of them). We wanted to capture the moment of their shocked faces after the door got opened with a camera. One of the evenings when we heard outside the voices of another club members making promotion we got in position in my room. I was supposed to open the door and Klemens would take then quickly a picture.
With Hiroki and his wife in Tokyo.
We just had to wait for the knocking on my door. Couple of minutes later there it was. Knock-knock, I opened the door, shocked faces of 2 Japanese, Klemens pushing the bottom to shoot the photoâ€¦pretty simple you might think. Everything worked perfectly till the microsecond when our visitors noticed the camera in Klemensâ€™ hands. Before the camera did the photo and the flash came out, the hands of the students went up and there it was: fingers marking a V, a typical sign Japanese use often when theyâ€™re on pictures. Incredible. I guess it was a reflex, but I would never expect they could react that quickly, hahaha.
A club in Osaka.
The â€śVâ€ť sign, Iâ€™m still not sure if it means â€śvictoryâ€ť, â€śpeaceâ€ť or something else. Meanwhile I guess that in the case of the Japanese it lost any of the previous meanings.
It became such a natural behavior that they donâ€™t even think about. I had the feeling that girls and women made this sign much more often then boys and men. Does that mean something? I donâ€™t know. Whatâ€™s also very popular in Japanâ€¦group photos. They seem to love it. When you meet Japanese tourist groups on a tour you can be pretty sure that sooner or later theyâ€™ll make a stop somewhere, call everybody and make a group photo together. Itâ€™s seems to be a must, a proof for the particular Japanese travelers that they were part of a group.
A camp for kids in Kikuchi on Kyushu.
Japanese travel a lot. They travel around the world (very often in extremely short time), they travel around their country and they travel daily to work, school, whatever. In case of the last option they spent often 2-4 hours daily in trains or subways.
And if you travel that long every day you need to spend the time somehow. The big majority of the subway passengers for example can be divided into 3 main groups. The first ones are usually little bit younger and play with their cellphones most of the time. They play games or they send messages, but the main mark is that their eyes stay staring at the cellphone screen all the time. The second group are the manga comic readers, usually boys or men. The age doesnâ€™t seem to be important in this case. I saw even the so called â€śsalary menâ€ť reading them.
My friend Hiroki's wedding.
And the last group of passengers is my favorite one: the sleepers. And you can see many of them in the subways. The incredible thing is that they seem never to miss their station. They wake up just few seconds before theyâ€™re supposed to get off. Is it something genetical? If so the right gene had to be created just the last 40 years or something. And I noticed another thing. In the subway the people have not many possibilities to lean their head on.
But the Japanese sleep so peacefully facing down like if they would be praying. One of my travel mates told me that when I have not enough possibilities to lean my head on it jumps up and down all the time. I donâ€™t wake up, but of course the body doesnâ€™t get much rest this way, haha. I would really like to know if thereâ€™s some trick.
Tokyo is full of people, the masses are just incredible. Itâ€™s amazing how good everything works, how good everything is organized considering the incredible number of people moving around every day. Thereâ€™s a huge crossing in Shibuya in Tokyo, when the green lights go on at least 100 people from 4 different directions start walking towards each other trying to get to the other side.
Not 2 different directions as usual, itâ€™s 4 directions. The white signs on the ground look like a big â€śXâ€ť. I passed this crossing few times as well. It feels like a huuuge tsunami of people coming to you from 3 different directions, somehow scary. The incredible thing is that the masses of people pass each other so smoothly without touching each other, that you had the feeling it was only the wind. Japanese try to avoid physical contact with people they donâ€™t know as much as possible and they are so â€śtrainedâ€ť that they manage to pass a crossing without touching almost anybody.
Japanese friends drinking and having fun.
To be continued.
Me in Kyoto.