I usually love my job because it takes me to many places. But when it brings me to Japan, a country I really love, and gives me no time to enjoy it, I feel a little disgruntled. Well, maybe not disgruntled, but not exactly gruntled either. Tonight I walked into Sannomiya with an old friend. Sannomiya is a confusing suburban station, with many train lines coming into it (see a photo of one corner above). We spotted what my Japanese colleagues call a drinking place. This means a restaurant where the food is meant to be shared while you drink with friends. We ordered our beers and four plates of food. It turned out that our order was perfect: one plate was sea food, one was beef, one pork and one chicken. They went down well with our beers. Neither of us wanted a sweet, but we needed a different taste to end with. I found a soft tofu, and we had that as a nachtisch. We’d waded through our food in the time that a group of Japanese buddies would take to down one beer. The waitress was very amused. Neither of us knew enough Japanese to explain to her that we have an early start and a long day tomorrow.
We walked out. My friend, The Immersed, had to leave immediately. I decided I could spend a little time walking around the back streets of Sannomiya. The thing I love about Japan is the complete sense of safety. You can be out in places which look disreputable in other countries, and where you would have to be on guard. Not in Japan. People are perfectly law abiding. Even if the police sets a few pink bunnies to watch the road, no more than one in several thousands will park in the wrong place. There is always that one, of course. Fortunately I was there to record that exception.
In the middle of a road full of fast food joints, cafes and convenience stores you may come across a large building full of slot machines, a pachinko parlour, a bowling alley, or a strip joint. Outside these there may be groups of school children hanging out. These juxtapositions look weird to us gaijin, but it is clear that the Japanese think nothing at all about these.
The fact is that Japan is very safe and at the same time very permissive. That’s what I love about Japan, and that’s why I wish I had less work every time I came to this country. On the other hand, the society is very closed, and does not really tolerate foreigners, which is why I would rather not spend a very long time in Japan.