Saturday, March 12, 2011

In the aftermath

Embarassingly enough, I was going to write about my day yesterday after Tokyo tried to shake us from her like the pesky residents we are, but that feels too trite right now, even for me, in light of how devastating the last 24 hours have been. And continue to be...

I'm safe, as is the beau and our family and friends in Aomori. I'm not sure what to do with myself at the moment, other than stay glued to the news while the aftershocks roll in and out. I've often lamented how lonely and isolating it can be here at times, but the number of people who have contacted me from overseas and have contacted my parents to make sure we are all right makes me weak with gratitude. Clutching onto a fence on the sidewalk yesterday to ground myself to the pavement so desperate to buck me as the surrounding buildings visibly swayed and shuttered as if a quick breeze was blowing through, I wasn't convinced it would ever end.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Please do it like a schoolgirl

How can you not like this month's edition of Tokyo Manners, there are schoolgirls featured! Why these lovely lasses haven't made it onto the posters earlier, I cannot imagine. The schoolgirl image here is like the popular girl at school - girls want to be her, boys want to fuck her (or should that be infantile women/pervy men?! I'm not judging). It also looks like Family Creepy is still together, despite his philandering and her brushes with hot young men with impeccable manners. I think even Creepy Baby is growing and before long will be sporting hair and glasses just like his daddy, and creepin' on strangers.

Anything to add gentle readers? I'm out.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Dear Dude on a Bike,

I got home last night and felt both shaken and ashamed for my words. I don't know why you decided to bike on the right side instead of the left, which even pedestrians seem to understand, or why you stubbornly insisted on staying on the inside of the sidewalk so that we played a game of bicycle chicken, our headlights coming within inches of each other. You looked a little surprised when I didn't yield to you, but you should know I have been dealing with this move by salarymen as a pedestrian for several years now. I'm not sure why I seem to attract your type - refusing to budge, determined to make me go around - maybe it's because I have it out for rude salarymen. I wish you would tell me why, in all my years as a pedestrian, what could have ended in collision usually ends in a smile and maybe a "sorry" as we both try to zig zag out of each other's way, but here in Tokyo, it ends in a standstill and maybe a rough elbow.

I probably sound entitled to you, Dude on a Bike, and I think I am to the extent that I should be able to get down the street most of the time without being forced to bend to the will of an ornery salaryman or a Vuitton-toting bitch. Tell your friends to cut me some slack and let's try to cooperate as we coexist on Tokyo's streets. That said, I'm sorry I told you that you should be on the other side of the sidewalk and that you're an idiot, most people don't deserve that. This is my second verbal confrontation with a stranger in Japan and while after the first, I felt smug for responding so appropriately, this time I wasn't provoked by your words, but by your actions, and I am shocked at how quickly those nasty words came shooting out of my mouth. You may be an asshole, but I should have refrained from calling you an idiot.

The other thing I wanted to tell you, was that I hope you don't make the mistake of thinking all foreigners are barbarians after your encounter with me, for there are gaijin much gentler than I. I'm also not that bad in the scheme of barbaric foreigners: I don't look at all-you-can-drink plans as a way to get my money's worth, or ride the train while exclaiming loudly as I make sweeping generalizations about Japanese people, or try to school other foreigners on the proper way to "navigate the intricacies of Japanese culture". I probably act meaner than I look, but I never claimed to be perfect. I know it's hard not to equate one irate foreigner with all of the others, I mean we all look alike, but just as I won't write off every Japanese guy as a bull-headed asshole, I hope you'll realize that my frustration and anger come not from being a foreigner, but from being a girl constantly shoved around. Deciding to say those nasty words to you probably does come from being a foreigner, though.

With any luck, you will have written me off as a slightly crazy whitie who has maybe reached the end of her rope. That's certainly what it feels like sometimes. So again, Dude on a Bike, I'm sorry for my words said in anger. Next time, maybe you can consider biking on what is generally considered the correct side and not threatening to collide with others.

The one where I put my hand in the toilet

Commuting by bike is hardcore stuff - at any given time I am travelling around the city with at least one extra outfit in my bag - and don't even ask about the shoe colony breeding under my desk at work. If only I wasn't such a schvitzer, I could be one of those fabulous women wearing heels and a skirt on her bike, barely breaking a sweat as she glides through the streets. I tried her out for a couple months, and although I felt infinitely hotter (in both senses of the word), she is strictly a weekend friend for me. So I wear scrubs on my bike now and get changed in a bathroom stall every morning, which of course comes with its own set of neuroses in a place where you should not hear anything that goes on behind the stall door. Fuck, save me from myself.

Every morning I place my bag on a shelf in the stall and almost every morning when I pull earrings out of my bag the thought crosses my mind that one day I am going to drop them in the toilet. I then make a little promise to myself to start my accessorizing when I am safely away from the toilet's beckoning depths from the following day. That promise? It gets made every day. It's also not without good reason.

When the beau and I first shacked up together, we lived in one of those charming "one room" bachelor pads, which was probably around 20m². The "one room" (or wan roomu) is not named as such because it is a one bedroom apartment, but rather because the entire thing is literally one big (actually not so much) room. It is one of my greatest regrets that I didn't document that time in our lives with photographs of the apartment at the height of our residence there, maybe throwing in a couple weird bed shots like John and Yoko, for it was truly stacked from the floor up. The bathroom was a "unit bath" (yunitto basu), which I loosely define as my ass will hit the wall if I bend over. Those of you not in Japan may have encountered one of these beauties before, favourite that they are of the ubiquitous Japanese business hotel. So imagine that, if you will, and then shrink it a little more, and you have our cream-coloured, seamless all-in-one bathroom. Not surprisingly, the toilet had a nasty habit of tempting my cosmetics to leap from the narrow shelf above it to a watery grave below. I almost shed real tears the first time my face cream ended up in there, bobbing around and daring me to pull it out and pretend like nothing had happened. So I guess you could say I have experience with this kind of thing and I've come out of it with the knowledge that unless you close the lid while literally powdering your nose in the mirror, that shit is going to wind up soaked.

One thing our unit bath toilet didn't have, was a flushing sensor, which adds a whole other element to the fishing game. I've toyed with fate too long, made too many broken promises, so of course last week my bag falls over, puking into the toilet, if you will, a hair clip and an antique locket (and my pride, if you must know). The hair clip I can do without but the locket? It was given to me by a close family friend for my Bat Mitzvah and while it spent about ten years being too grown up for me, my style has now come around. There was no time to think, really, I knew I had about 20 seconds tops before the ever-efficient toilet would sense my panicked body in front of it and whisk the locket away to, I don't know, somewhere off Odaiba. In my hand plunged, out came the locket, and stall peace was restored. Except now you can add sticking my hand in the toilet to the growing list of things I've done behind the stall door at work.