Saturday, April 03, 2010

Sheep Nation

Japan is a nation of sheep. Where one strong sheep goes others blindly follow in oblivion often to their detriment, and in the lack of clear leadership they are left to wander aimlessly and get lost.

In a city like Tokyo with 20 million people, the busiest crosswalks and train stations in the world, you would think that people would move with some kind of direction and purpose but no... No matter how crowded, no matter what the rush, they drift aimlessly listing from side to side often at times taking up the entire sidewalk or staircase in the process.

This morning I am rushing to catch a train. Ok, it's my fault that I'd forgotten to charge my train pass taking up the valuable minutes I needed but still... There is no excusing stupid Japanese sheep. Moving at a brisk pace I can see my train has arrived as the thousands of people pour out of it and down the stairs from the platform I was striding toward.

In Tokyo the station stairs are clearly divided into two sections... Up and down. And yet this morning the stupid sheep, like most mornings, decided to ignore the barriers dividing the two and flooded down both leaving me to wade my way up through the masses. To add insult to injury the sheep infront of me moved like they had no reason at all to ever reach the top.

So, frustrated and angry I pushed, shouldered and shunted my way onto the train just as the doors slid closed only to realize that in my haste and my battle against a flock of lost bewildered and oblivious Japanese sheep that I had just caught the wrong train!

The train I had so reliably been catching all year had changed. It no longer stopped at the station I needed. For that I would have had to get there another 7 minutes earlier or 3 minutes later. Instead I found myself shooting past my stop, watching it with a mix of anguish and frustration as it passed by.

Later, having turned around and made my way back to work I managed to calm down. I like this country and it's people, despite the frustrations both cause at times. They are a strange, quirky, idiosyncratic people and while I rage against them at times I love them in equal measure.

Tonight when work is finished and I find myself sitting comfortably in my friend's bar I'm going to raise my glass and say "here's to a nation of sheep".

Then I'm am going to drink.

Monday, March 29, 2010


Saturday... It's a lovely day in
Tokyo... The first for quite a while after a very long and cold winter, only made worse by going home to Australia for 3 weeks. Stepping off the plane at Narita after the sweltering temperatures we had in Melbourne was not at all pleasant. I didn't just react physically but mentally and it has taken a while to get back on track.

Recently I've been feeling very happy. Content with life. Not something I'm used to. Usually I screw it up somehow but I'm determined to get it right this time.

Anyway, Saturday is a beautiful day. Work turns out to be easier than expected. The morning's work is halved when the students set to come to the second demo lesson for the day cancel. Suddenly we find ourselves with an extraodinarily long lunch break (around 3 hours) so we do what any self respecting gaijin English teacher would do... Grab some beers and go to the park.

On the way we saw the above sign. I still have no idea what it means. Beware of tumbling businessmen? To add to our amusement, a Japanese businessman coming toward us tripped over his own feet and almost fell flat on his face while we were looking at the sign. It was a perfect moment in time.

After our encounters with tumbling businessmen we made our way into the university grounds / park. For the first time in a long time it felt like I was back at Uni again. Sitting around on the grass in the sun having a few beers before heading back to class. It was glorious. Then of course it was back to work again but still...

Life could be a lot worse right now.

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