What I See in Tokyoites
by Tiffany; September
Following the direction
into the immigration in the bright and clean arrival path, “Yokoso,”
the bold red Hirakana, showing on the white board hanging high down
from the top of ceiling is a greeting, “Welcome!”
Beside the baggage claim area, airport workers in black peaked caps and
uniforms are helping to check the baggage claim receipts on the luggage
to ensure no mistakes for everyone.
Going more ahead, the customs officer shows passengers a cardboard with
many items in multiple languages. I can just point to each question and
simply reply yes or no, so it doesn’t matter if I neither understand
Japanese nor English (although I can). They’re always very
courteous—much more than Southeast Asia or North America—even in the
Travelling in Tokyo is as easy as a pie. 24-hour convenience stores are
all over. I can easily purchase stuff from a machine anywhere and
anytime—traffic tickets, drinks, cigarettes, disposable cameras,
tissues, snacks, ice cream, instant noodles, rice, and meal tickets,
and even condoms. Anything is thinkable! Japan probably has the highest
density of vending machines on earth. To live a convenient life seems
important for Tokyoites.
Public transportation in Tokyo is just like a complex cobweb, busy but
easy. And, the traffic fee is set by distances (like most Asian
countries) rather than by zones (such as Canada, UK, and Australia)
that seem more reasonable.
I usually take Keisei SkyLine from airport to Ueno eki (station) and
then transfer to JR Yamate line instead of JR Narita Express. It’ll
save me almost one half of the difference on the fee; moreover, Yamate
line is the only route running in a loop, which allows me to see the
clouds and skyscrapers, the signboards and office workers in the
building. It’s better than being jammed into the cars of Metro.
Following the people in neat formal suits (one hardly sees sport shirts
and sneakers) the orderly crowd into the carriage fully decorated with
advertisements showing a well-know businessman, famous endorsers with
new sets of cosmetics, and fresh beverages. No noisy music or loud
talking! Some are reading their books (covered with plant paper cover
to keep the book secret) or newspapers; some are listening to their
Ipods with earphones or working on their laptops.
Often, near the door, a couple of teen girls in sailor outfits, black
mini plait skirts, and black leather shoes with white loose socks, lean
by the window looking at the pictures on their pink cell phones
decorated elaborately with sparkling jewels and Hello Kitty phone
straps. “Ne~ ne,” titters for something about boys.
Japanese men seem to have a special taste for high school girls that is
obviously found in magazines, manga (comics) and ningyo (dolls).
Gravure idols have been one of the most impressive modern cultural
symbols of Japan, and Japan has been the biggest shashinshū (photobook)
Also, Tokyoites diligently devour knowledge. Myriads of publications
are everywhere. I always enjoy hanging out at the department-store-like
bookstores, such as Junkudo and Kinokuniya (they resemble but are
bigger than the “Chapters” in Vancouver’s downtown.)
Most Tokyoites, children and adults, take extra lessons or continuing
education after school or work in cram schools or from the language
programs on TV at nights. Except business courses, they seem eager to
learn English, Chinese, Italian, Spanish and so on. But, if you expect
to chat with them in those languages, you might be disappointed.
My first time at Shijuku, the maziest station in Tokyo, I asked
directions in English to a young smart-looking office lady. She just
blushingly shook her head, waved her hands, and then rushed away to
meet her coworkers, probably for a drink. The drink culture is also
Japanese tradition. I enjoy sitting on a bench, having a beer and
kabob, and overhear their conversation about work, love or
Courtesy, carefulness, neatness, energy, and diligence are the typical
image of Tokyoites. In my traveling experiences, I feel that Tokyoites
pursue fashion and new things, they don’t want to be behind or
different than their fellows, and they are quite repressed about
showing their behaviour, habits and interest.