05 July 2010
Random thoughts; red lights
Struggling to think of negatives to this country of widespread and accepted OCD, I must say that my patience is wearing thin. Not for transport, which departs and arrives almost to the second (my last Shinkansen departed 5 seconds late and arrived precisely on time), more the walking. It's maddening and being from London – having spent my whole life keeping a heads up for a route through people and especially across roads – I'm damned if I'm waiting any longer for the sodding traffic light to change. It's been two minutes and the crowd has built up considerably. Still red; some more people have arrived. My foot starts tapping and I lean over to my left leg. Sighing, I look up to see the traffic light remaining green and yet few vehicles crossing the road. It's red, still and I'm getting annoyed. People are programmed in Japan to follow rules; being the complete opposite of your average Londoner, who breaks, bends, snaps and refutes any rule you dare impose. My patience has worn terribly thin and I can't stand it any longer; I’m heading across.
Perfectly safe the roads are, though the looks from surrounding locals as I step across the four-lane road are that of stunned, jaw-dropping astonishment. Take me to prison if you want, but with even the police demonstrating manners and traffic wardens apologising for bestowing a ticket, I doubt these lads will cause me much trouble. Looking back it’s almost as if I’ve started a trend – like the locals hadn’t realised this possibility. It’s like watching babies discover walking for the first time and as their eyes glisten with discovery of a new skill, I can’t help but feel proud. One guy tentatively places his right leg one step forward, rocking on his rear foot. Is this even possible, to cross a road when the red man is showing; to break a rule and there be no consequence? It’s not like there’s any police around in Japan – they simply don’t need them here; it’s a self-supervising society where bags can be left unwatched and the worst thing that could possibly happen is someone merely nudges you. I’m in two minds as to whether this is an enlightened society, or one that guards a deep-rooted desire for chaos. The Japanese live long and prosper in their Utopia; there’s something behind the front though I’m sure of it, I just wonder how often their Ponfar takes place.
Drinking alone Matsumoto
Now I know how an alcoholic feels. Any drink will do, so long as I've the coins in my pocket to cross palms with. In this case my tipple of choice is Guinness, and to say I'm not a fan is a gross understatement; it's like sipping liquidised Whale blubber, leaving a stupid moustache each and every time I take a sip. I can almost feel the fat piling on to my gut with each gulp. Yuck.
At 600 yen, it's just over 4 pounds a pint; during happy hour that is. Here's a thought; if you want to make a clinical drunk sober, ship them here to Japan. They'll be off the stuff in no time. Either that or you'll have blood on your hands as they try to get drunk using cleaning solvents. Arguably we wouldn't suffer a great loss to the gene pool anyway.
Where are all the travellers propping up the bar, this is a proper English-themed pub after all and I was expecting a veritable congregation. Sadly I'm surrounded by silver surfing dullites who can barely mutter a single syllable to their life-long partner. With 400 years of turgid, monotonous marriage under your belt, I understand; what else could there possibly be to say to one another? It's simple really; the only people who can afford this country are either on honeymoon splashing out, or so close to their inevitable tombs you can almost smell the formaldehyde. It's a shame the themed bars have at least a 3000 cover charge, or I'd hit them every night. Who said money isn't the answer to everything?
Several pints later and the alcohol effect is making me a fan, strangely. "moh hitatsu onegaishimasu" I say to the barmaid and she replies with a typical "Hai!" and accompanying nod of head. I can't help but laugh; it's "cute" and amusing both that I got it right and that she responds almost as an automaton would.
Service is world class here and they know how to pour Guinness. It's a pint pulled to perfection and cold too. Gone are the luke warm pints of England, replaced with chilled glasses and table service that makes you feel strangely omnipotent. It's expensive omnipotence admittedly but worth trying once in your life; I don't see this approach to service changing any time soon.
Just as I thought all hope was lost and a local rocks up to the table adjacent to me; he can speak English. It’s hard to hide my relief as the TV opposite has locked up and the lack of stimulus is causing irritable hand movement. A short while later we are joined by a CBC; who whilst speaking a little Japanese is clearly in need of stretching her mother tongue’s muscle. Perhaps all is not lost; I think it’s difficult to drink alone here after all.