Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Let's work out!

The gym here in Japan is truly an experience. It's so service-oriented that you show up, receive your rented head-to-toe work out gear from the nice ladies in cream suits at the reception desk, and pad down a sweet-smelling hallway with gentle irrashaimases at your back. It does start to get a little over the top however, when there are at least four staff in the gym who are constantly saying hello or otsukaresama depending on whether you are about to start sweating like a crazy gaijin or you are a sweat-drenched gaijin retreating to the locker room. And if that wasn't enough, the staff walk through the machine area distributing little bows and konnichiwas at each and every machine that is in use. I hardly know what to do any more! I'm pumping away on the machines and I have a split second to decide whether to ignore the person bowing to me from below or to nod and smile back through the sweat, or go further and say hello with the risk of shouting it because I have Talib Kweli blasting on my iPod.

I have written about the Gym before, indeed I have, but I find myself once again utterly captivated by everything that goes on there.

My Gym here is very strict with lots of rules. No shoes in the locker room, you must be covered appropriately in the powder room, no magazines on the treadmill but OK on the elliptical or the bike, the list goes on. According to some freshly-printed signs yesterday, we are not allowed to even send e-mails on our cell phones from the locker room now due to them all having cameras and there being personal information and privacy concerns. First of all, if you've ever tried to surreptitiously take a photo with your phone in Japan, you will have discovered a very loud shutter sound that cannot be turned down or off (anti-perv measures). Second, this gym costs around 20,000 yen a month (thank you Kaisha!), which keeps out the riff raff and probably women who want to take photos of other women in the locker room with their phones and profit from them. Kakushidori or voyeuristic photos and movies definitely have a market niche here but really, how concerned are we going to get about being violated in the locker room by a hidden camera?

One of the unwritten rules is waking up people in the massage chairs for no good reason at all as I have found. The staff ensure there are always big towels covering the massage chairs but sometimes people take them away for whatever reason and they are left naked and exposed. I made the fatal mistake of sitting in one of these chairs one day and just as I was slipping into a sweet sweet doze, one of the staff bitches wakes me up and insists that I stand up so she can drape the leg-clampers with a towel. It goes without saying that I have her the Shit Eye. I was showered, clean and socked-could she not have let me sleep?!

As of late, I have seen women putting bows in their hair before working out, and then there are those who refuse to tie up their long hair, letting it swing around and hang into their eyes while they pump iron. Am I the only one who likes my hair off my face when I work out? I feel like an unwelcome flashback to a Jane Fonda video with my headband pushing my hair out of my face, what can I say? all my style goes out the window at the Gym. I have also noticed a very sprite and aged gym bunny, who likes to shower in her socks. Then there is the music played in the changing rooms, sometimes a strummy guitar version of Arrested Development's November and once recently, the instrumental version of a song from Fiddler on the Roof. All this while I am trying to figure out which body lotion to use where, as the sign tells me to "use the amenities provided only for the correct parts"...um, which parts would those be? I am dying to ask. The Japanese is less helpful, as it simply tells you to put the lotion back where you found it.

Does anybody here use the hairdryer at the gym for any place other than your head? There it is, on a recently amended sign, a few terse black letters telling us to only use the hairdryer on our heads. Was this a countermeasure to the hoards of women using the dryers to fluff up their nether-forests? Or was in it answer to the many women "air-drying" themselves instead of using towels, and thus violating the Cover-up Rule? As I asked in my other post, is all this instruction and cautioning simply because the Japanese like to "over-instruct" (ever listened to the train announcements or been led up stairs at a restaurant?) or because management doesn't think Japanese (or gaijin for that matter) know how to use a gym conscientious of those around them? Where do we go from here? Really, I wouldn't be surprised if there were new signs up next week instructing us on how to use the Q-tips on our correct parts, beating those gym-goers who like to use them to Q-tip their rectums to the punch.

I can see the Gym getting stricter and eventually turning into an actual police state. There are already warnings and shoulder taps going on, I haven't yet discovered if there are hidden cameras or if people are ratting out their comrades. I must admit my way of thinking has changed a bit, and I find myself giggling like a schoolgirl on the inside when I see someone reprimanded. Just last week there was a woman sitting at a beauty station buck naked AND talking on her cellphone. Snap! That's 2 counts, and the practically nonexistent amount of time it took for one of the Beige Suits to come and tell her off was seriously impressive.

I actively seek Gym code violations now. I'll be sitting in the sauna and start clucking my tongue when I see a woman lay down or wagging my finger when a woman stands completely naked at a beauty station, rubbing the body lotion over every! part! It's really too much at times.

Yesterday I was standing half-naked at my locker when I was assaulted by the cleaning lady. I always bow and smile at her and when I threw a Good Evening her way she started trying to practice her Gym English on me. We started chatting in Japanese about her efforts to study English and memorize all the warning signs posted around the room in English, and just when I thought she was about to push-off, she started practicing her lines on me! Sweet lady, but come on, I'm half naked, struggling with my hose and she wants to parrot "Please do not take any glass items into the shower room" at me! I can't win, someone is either dying to talk to me, or taking pains to avoid me, like the biatchy Secretaries I sometimes see flailing on the treadmills who smirk at each other when they walk past me. Such are my joys of working out in Tokyo.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Kimono ladies who lunch

I found myself on Sunday afternoon pigeon-toe walking my way down Roppongi-dori towards Nishi-azabu. The wind was gusting and I was, like many Japanese women before me, trying to make sure the front of my kimono didn't blow open and put my cooch on display to the world. It wasn't quite that extreme I suppose, for if you are wearing a kimono properly (check), there are 3 layers of overlapped fabric to ensure your modesty. I was worried about the layer directly under my kimono being exposed, not quite akin to flashing your panties but about one layer of fabric away. But one thing I am sure of, is that I was trying super hard to walk like a pigeon.

This after I had navigated a train ride and some subway steps, cursing myself the whole way for neglecting to check a kimono manual for some visual guidance on how to do steps daintily, ensuring the only skin any one is going to see is the nape of your neck. For all intents and purposes, it was my kimono debut. Despite my love for kimono and the kitsuke lessons that I can no longer do without, I have always felt some strange reticence for going out in kimono. I'm not quite sure why, I think it's a bit of a shock to be a gaijin in a kimono, not a yukata, but in a full-out kimono ensemble. I stick out like a sore thumb already and adding a kimono to that ups the ante a little too much for my liking. But on Sunday everything went off without a hitch so maybe I will grow a pair and start acting like someone in a master course for kimono.

My kimono school was holding a slightly late shinenkai (New Year party), so 40 or so of us donned our finest and congregated here for an afternoon of French cuisine and entertainment. The space itself was lush and as we had rented out the entire restaurant, we all got to descend a long white staircase into the dining room as we arrived, making it feel like a debutante ball. I'll be the first to admit, I don't really "get" French food, or at least not the kind they serve at poncy French restaurants. When I was in France with my parents as a young and ignorant girl, I am purported to have said with wrinkled nose, that French food is "too fancy and saucy". A classic line that is still repeated to me today with glee. I stand by the younger version of myself today. While it looks fantastic, yesterday I felt like I was force-feeding myself course after course of rich yet bland food. The price tag? 16000 yen. I'm not going to gripe about the price, I knew what I was getting into, but I could have just eaten 16 tasteless thousand-yen notes and have felt about as satisfied as I was after that meal.

Halfway through our meal we were treated to some entertainment on the koto. Fancy French and traditional Japanese music? Not such a bad combo as it turns out, which is more than I can say for the second half when a bellydancer came out and whirled among our tables, occasionally stopping to make sure her tits weren't falling out of her sparkly top. I love bellydancing, I love Middle Eastern music, but with all of us in our prudish kimono and a couple old geezers from the National Kimono something Association, it felt a bit like being in a drawing room in 19th century England where a savage and untamed "local" had been brought back on one of the ships to shock and entertain us. It was all a bit illicit.

It was funny watching the reactions on people's faces when the dancer shook her money-makers in their faces but I think a lot of women would have liked to get up and shake it too, had it not been for their tubular dress. I won't go on to say that kimono is restricting and the result of a patriarchy, etc., but having a bellydancer perform in front of a room of kimono-clad women was quite a sight to see. Talk about drawing a line between the two. The ideas and thoughts surrounding kimono today are certainly not what they used to be. Now confined to a form of dress seldom worn on an everyday basis, kimono wear and theory has gotten much stricter. I can't tell you the number of times I've had Japanese women ask me "isn't it difficult to breathe?" after being told I take kitsuke classes. I feel like reminding them that while kimono today are different than past eras, kimono used to be all people wore and were built for comfort and movement, vastly different to how one imagines them today. Looking at the bellydancer's outfit you would think the two couldn't be more different from each other. While the range and type of movement is different, they are similar in that the clothing dictates the movement and action allowed and in turn, the movement dictates how the clothing is made and styled. Despite the strange feeling of watching the scantily-clad dancer twirl around us, I had to remind myself that the movements and dancing figure of a woman in kimono who knows how to move properly in one, can be equally pleasing to the eye, albeit in a different way.

The rest of the afternoon passed away in a blur of wine and creamy desserts, punctuated by some shop talk with the women I was seated with. I don't get a chance to speak to other students when I am at the school, so it was a pleasant surprise to get a chance to talk with them and confess similar fears over collars, knots and pulling too tight. I even had a pleasant exchange in Japanese with code-switcher, so I think all is forgiven until the next time she tries the ole switcheroo on me.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Open letter to JET applicants

Dear potential JETs,

It has come to my attention that one of my posts was recently cited in your message boards as a cause for concern. It never occurred to me that some of the stuff I spout would be a cause for concern (except, of course, with relation to my sanity). Granted yes, it was only one person who showed concern, and had such person been a little more in touch, they probably would have realized that when I mentioned Secretaries being groomed as potential wives at the Kaisha, that it did not it any way whatsoever, apply to her situation as a potential English teacher in Japan. As a JET participant, who exactly would you be groomed for anyway? The male science teacher? The kids?!

Said person stated, "I also know that applying for jobs in Japan always involves submitting marital status and a photo, so your looks DO count." I believe they are asking for your marital status in the way the government would during a Census year, not because they are only looking for single women to pair off with whatever single males happen to be lying around the office. I find the photo thing reprehensible as it's just not done in Canada, but to the best of my knowledge it is fairly common in some other Commonwealth countries. Again however, this does not mean they are doing a "hot or not" competition while sifting through the piles of applications they receive every year. Despite what any company may argue to the contrary, I believe that including a photo definitely affects one's initial impression of applicants but if JET (or any other organization/company for that matter) did not hire "average-looking" people, there would be very few English teachers in Japan. And before your knee jerks so hard you find a bruise tomorrow, I am not saying that JETs or English teachers here are fugly on the whole, but take any group of people (excepting perhaps models) and there is going to be a huge range of looks and body sizes.

It's the same in Japan. All these foreign guys with Asian fever fail to understand is that the percentage of hot women here is not abnormally high compared to other countries, it's just that women here tend to dress up more and spend more time looking pleasing and feminine than other places. Effort aside however, an average Japanese girl in a prim skirt with ribbons and bows is just that, she doesn't suddenly get hotter. I think women here are over-hyped. There are some real hot ones and some real not ones, just as there are everywhere else in the world. They do tend to be smaller, and more compact, but you can't really go back in time and come back as an Asian woman now can you?

If you are female and come on the JET program, you should come with a healthy body image. If you have any problems with how you look, particularly when it comes to weight, you will probably end up trash-talking Japanese women for being petite bitches and complaining that there are no stores with your size. This is a reality and why there is a such a thing as shopping on the internet with plastic.

If you like yourself and have confidence, you shouldn't have trouble avoiding the aforementioned pitfalls, nor should you have trouble finding a bf, be it Japanese or foreign. Keep in mind though ladies, that there is a much smaller pool of foreign guys to choose from and an even smaller pool if you take out all those who have come down with a bad case of Asian fever. So unless you pull that stick out of your ass and consider dating Japanese boys and learning Japanese, you should resign yourself to waiting around for one of those gaijin boys who want to date you to materialize. They do exist, and frankly if gaijin guys here cross you off their list just for being similarly gaijin, they aren't worth pursuing in the first place. I've dated foreign guys here and it was generally a positive experience; if you are attractive (inside, outside, wherever), it will translate.

Why did I make the snarky stick out of ass comment? Because I am sick of hearing lonely foreign girls complain about there being no nice gaijin boys here. Did they not come through the same immigration gates that I did? The ones that were clearly marked, Welcome to Japan in several languages? This is Japan and because of that, there are funnily enough, a plethora of hot Japanese guys, some of who will date foreign girls. Glorious day!

In short ladies (and gents for that matter too), come to Japan, learn Japanese and make an effort in the morning to look nice. You can glean a lot from how someone dresses, and while it may not be fair, you will probably be treated with more respect here if you care about your looks and avoid dressing like a tourist or an English-teaching bum. I'm not saying these things to scare you, but one of the biggest complaints I hear about Japanese girls is that they are a) small and b) well put together. In coming to Japan, you may learn to have a new-found respect for your straight teeth, curly hair, or ski-jump nose. I have never thought of my nose as a source of compliments but coming to Japan changed all that. Over the last 3 years I have received stares of amazement followed by shrieks of jealousy over my nose and big eyes. You'd think I was little red riding hood's fucking grandmother or something. Apparently it is quite the party trick when you can't see over your nose when looking sideways. Go figure.

I digress, as usual, and while I don't have experience officially teaching English in Japan, I hardly think you need to worry about JET feeling like you work for a Japanese company. They are not grooming you for marriage, they just want your Native English Skills. The only time you will have to worry is if you find yourself at a Japanese company as the lone white girl, among a sea of perky, fake-smiling, shiny haired, snaggle-toothed Secretaries, wondering just how exactly, you got there.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Project Host: Pre-Valentine's Day

As much as I feel like I am coming to have a very special and serious relationship with Kabukicho, on Friday night I strayed. It was all so impulsive and the flashy disco ball sending specks of light onto different turf too irresistible. In short, we ended up at a club in Roppongi. Player's Club Dios to be precise.

The brain child of former King of Hosts, Reiji, Club Dios claims to take all the risk out of a night at the host club by having up front fees and none of the ridiculous hidden charges that come with designating a host or naming a particular host to carry your fake Chanel to the door at the end of an evening while you promise to write. There is a cute little cartoon strip on Dios' website that instructs first-timers on how to "enjoy" getting their club cherry popped, including how to announce that it's your first time and that you were referred by the website. Doing so gets you two hours of shochu or brandy for 3000 yen, which is the cheapest deal I've had so far. Needless to say, I had the line down like a pro by the time we arrived.

The interior was lush and as my friend remarked with a sigh of relief, rat-free. White leather banquettes, dark mirrors and sparkling lights greeted our Acqua-wearied souls. We were relieved of our coats at the door, something that had not been done at either Ai or Acqua. The first host to come over and sit with us was a naive-faced guy called "Jeff" who had spent 2 years in Seattle studying English. His English was actually very good but I had to resist the urge to smack him when he joked to another host several minutes in that he was getting a free English lesson. I'm not an English teacher during the day (not that there's anything wrong with that) and I sure as hell am not one in my private life but I kept that nugget of a thought to myself and tried to keep our conversation in Japanese, after all, we were leaving the other hosts out of the conversation. But really, I would rather have to say Pardon a couple times than have my night at a host club spoiled by having to speak in English slower than I prefer. I know I'm a bitch.

"Jeff" stayed with us most of the night and he was definitely the club's bitch, relegated to fetching towels, lighting cigarettes (crappy plastic lighter BTW) and escorting me to the bathroom. He was a nice guy though, and would certainly be a comfort to any foreign customers who can't speak Japanese. For the next couple hours 8 or 9 other guys were paraded by our table, but without what seemed like any kind of system or order, although I know several of them were fairly new at the club. I've got to say, despite the gorgeous interior, the hosts were boring. There was no sex talk, hardly any flirtation and most of the guys didn't know how to make conversation and I found myself asking the questions (and internally the really big one: why the fuck aren't these guys hosting me?"). Looks wise, they were a lot classier on the whole than Acqua, with everyone in suits. There were a few Classic Hosts with bouffant hair, but on the whole they were fairly standard issue and I don't recall thinking any one was particularly hot.

Dios has to get big props for the Man Menu however, which was a portable touch-screen with internet access. This allowed us to scope out the club's flavours and know each and every host's blood type before they even got to the table. We could have called some specific guys over (no charge) but decided to just let them come as they would.

The big bonus of the evening, which made me feel like my 3000 yen was well spent, was the show that happens only on Friday and Saturday. It was more of a dance-medley extravaganza really. There was some frenetic dancing to what could have been J-pop or electronic music, I'm not really sure, ballet-esque comedy and some old-fashioned Japanese hip hop. At some points the guys were in suits with no shirts, the next moment they were shirtless and even further on, they were in tights. It was hilarious (and meant to be funny too so no one told the 2 whities off for laughing like maniacs). Unfortunately, only about half of the performers were hosts, the others were "back up dancers for famous musicians", the last two words of which I do not believe for a second.

After the show ended, a couple older and seemingly more experienced hosts came over and their confidence was refreshing. However, as we noticed that the last choo choo train out of Roppongi was fast-approaching we asked for the cheque before our time was up. While someone was fetching it, a couple more hosts came over and we finally had a semi-interesting group, which was such a waste as we had already asked for the cheque. The King then came over and asked us to choose 2 guys we liked and frankly, I couldn't remember one from the other so I brazenly pointed at the 2 guys nearest to me who I had just met in the last 3 minutes. They were obviously surprised but I couldn't remember one snippet of vaguely interesting conversation that I'd had all night (excepting that with my friend). The cheque then came and everyone moaned that we were leaving so soon but really, they were just late in coming to the table. The 2 guys I had chosen immediately set about trying to get my number and mail address, which I am learning to avoid like a pro. It's hard to be smooth when they don't offer up their contact deets, but I gave them the "I don't use my keitai for email despite not knowing one soul in Japan who doesn't" and finally the I'll call you. It got a bit awkward as we were trying to leave and finally had to just stand up and make a move. We were then escorted to the elevator by 4 or 5 hosts, inexperienced "Jeff" jumping out of the elevator at the last minute upon realizing he wasn't supposed to come down to street level with us.

The other customers were all young except for one maybe, and we managed to peep on another group of first-timers, one of whom had to be pushed into the club by her eager friend. What surprised me the most was the number of single parties, just one pretty girl in her twenties with 3 or 4 hosts. These girls were obviously regulars but somehow I can't imagine going to a host club by myself the first couple of times. After that however, why not go for a couple drinks with someone who will act as your personal bartender, both in fixing you drinks and in listening to whatever you have to say? Those girls obviously aren't getting that in other areas of their lives.

Club Dios' system does seem more transparent than others but there is still a charge for designating a host (presumably one of the 2 chosen at the end of the first visit) and a hefty 30% tax after a certain hour. It seems fine to drink the house bottle in later visits but of course there is also a menu with prices that gouge.

The show was truly the winning point, as was the classy interior, but if there isn't funny and interesting conversation, it feels rather repetitive and tiring after a while. A couple of our hosts remarked how dangerous Kabukicho is and made a few other disparaging comments about the area. As with the previous club, I was very quick to say that it was our first time at a host club, and as the night wore on I couldn't help wishing we were in Kabukicho, even with hosts of questionable sobriety, where there isn't such a conscious effort to make everything so squeaky clean it becomes sterile and uninteresting. A sister club of Ai is next on the list, I've come to the conclusion that clubs outside of Kabukicho aren't worth a damn.

Player's Club Dios, Roppongi

(On a five-star scale)

Professionalism ****
Club decor *****
Hosts' fashion ***
Conversation **
Attentiveness ***
Overall **1/2

Yes I am still using my ghetto star system. Shout-out to Nate who has tried to help me out with some host icons, but due to my total incompetence when it comes to computers, we will have to stick with this for just a little longer.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Happy Valentine's Day from the Kaisha

I was so naive in thinking that because Valentine's Day falls on a weekend this year I would be spared the horror of yet another Valentine's Day at the Kaisha. Our first year, Other Whitie and I consulted in hushed whispers in the days leading up to V-Day, trying to decide whether we would cave and click around the office in our heels, distributing chocolate to our male colleagues. Being the strong ENTJs that we are, we forewent the painful custom and instead sat back with popcorn to watch the show.

There were armies of Secretaries marching up and down the halls laden with chocolate goodness to be proffered at the feet of the Professionals. I'm surprised some of them made it back to their desks with arms intact after adorning the lengths of them like bangles with small jewelled bags of chocolate. You have to keep in mind, these ladies don't encounter much heavy-lifting.

During some post-battle drinks in the days following, I listened as Professionals boasted about how many women they received chocolates from and compared numbers. It was all a bit tribal really. The flip side is, of course, that they will have to reciprocate with candy on White Day exactly one month later. The boasting aside, I think most salarypeeps in Japan wish chocolate giant Morinaga had never come up with the V-Day custom where only women give chocolate to their colleagues (giri choco, obligation chocolate) and special someone (honmei choco, sweetheart chocolate), but let's face it, what a genius idea: if there's one thing the Japanese embrace, it's obligation. Then the men, who at first are secretly pleased with the long lines of gift-bearing visitors they receive on the 14th, realize what a huge pain in the ass it is to return something to each and every one of them. It doesn't stop there.

According to "tradition" (estb. 1978), men in Japan should be returning gifts twice or three times the amount of that which they received on V-Day from their main squeeze. I don't usually align myself with the holders of testicles, but it's quite clear that they are getting the shitty end of the stick in this fabricated tradition. Why are the men always required to give more? Is it simply an economic thing or are there some seriously spoiled biatches running the show from behind the scenes? I think it goes back to the misguided construction of what a "lady" is. It seems to me that holidays like Christmas and V-Day/White Day are for women to give 10% and receive 110. It's all very well to be treated by your man and to receive a little gallantry but what happened to dishing out what you'd like in return? My Japanese teacher with her somewhat old skool ideas on love and marriage put it quite succinctly today: "Couples have to put in effort to show the other they still care. Women who get married think they are set for life in terms of love and money, stop wearing make-up and making an effort, and then wonder why their man is admiring some hot young piece on the street." Well put, Sensei.

I was starting to get a little twisted today when my male colleagues (as if there is any other kind) started up with their annual chocolate-counting fest, especially since I don't have Other Whitie a few doors away to meet up with for a fruit-eating conference. But then surprise of surprises! I received a couple small boxes of chocolates. Yes, I will admit one was from my Japanese teacher who is likely trying to prevent me from going off the deep end from all this testosterone, but I also received chocolate from real live females! Not my Secretary of course, who seems to have declared a mousey silent vendetta against me. My first thought was, has my skirt and heels combo been looking particularly, um, masculine lately? But no, they are "friend chocolates," a whole other as of yet unexplored category. Whatever category they were given it, the gesture warmed the cockles of my green heart. (Would someone please explain what the fuck a cockle is anyway?!?!)

I have now been inspired to go out and buy the beau a little token of chocolatey love, and not from the convenience store either. Nope, he is getting some 4000 yen chocolate from Tokyo Midtown, where, as with every other shopping centre and department store, they have a special V-Day market set up to rob us of our money and our senses. 4000 yen chocolate that I will end up eating as he is not such a chocolate-eater unless it is in the form of a cake or pastry. Unfortunately, however, I have to go to a host club tonight so I don't have the time to go home and bake.

Yes you heard right! Tomorrow will bring an extra extra read-all-about-it Valentine's Day edition of Project Host. My lovely friend is feeling a bit down this week so what better to lift a girl's spirits than some alcohol-fueled conversation with some hot cotton candy-haired hosts?!

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Please do it at home (again)

A few days late and some inspiration short, here I am. I have a bunch of unfinished posts I've been attempting to first finish so they vaguely resemble coherence, and then of course put up. Neither attempt has yet been successful, in particular a rant about the gym where I unknowingly repeat myself from an earlier post several times. I might just put it up anyway and perhaps my writing will have improved from the earlier gym post. Likely not.
So what do you think of old creepy sweepy this month? I actually feel bad for the guy now that he is a temporary cripple. I suspect he broke his leg during his run-in with either the party train hooligans back in November, the train surfer in August, or more recently in January with the guy I initially thought was homeless but turns out he is just sitting on the floor of the train. With his leg out. Creepy sweepy probably tripped over it and wound up with a broken ankle and now he has to contend with another fucking couple inconveniencing Tokyo's commuters by coochie-cooing in the courtesy seats over some Valentine's cookies. I can just imagine what the guy with the pursed lips is saying: "Bitch, what kind of a cookie is this? This tastes like some cheap-ass giri choco to me!" And while simultaneously scratching his crotch. Charming.

I have to admit though, this poster is sorely needed. In fact, I think they should build a giant mechanical hand that swings down and smacks people in the courtesy seats who don't give them up to the elderly, feeble and knocked-up, which is basically everyone (the people in the courtesy seats that is!). I think you have be missing a limb and bleeding out of your eyes to be offered a courtesy seat in Tokyo. Is it the big city anonymity that has turned everyone into monsters or do people not give up their seats because then it would be seen as placing the burden of being helped by a stranger on the other person? The other person who would then have to feel bad about receiving a stranger's kindness and bear that unnecessary weight when they could have just remained standing. Or has that theory of Ruth Benedict's been shot to hell already?