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I take the Yamanote train to work every day
and I love it. The Yamanote is a very special
train. It's a cornerstone of my Tokyo experience,
and I suspect that it plays the same role
for many foreigners living in Japan.
The Yamanote is an eleven-car commuter train
owned by japan rail that runs in a circle
around central Tokyo. It stops at about 20
different stations and takes approximately
an hour to run its loop.
The Yamanote disperses people throughout
Tokyo. Commuters enter the city from the
suburbs on various trains that connect to
major Yamanote-line stations such as Shinjuku,
Shinagawa, Ueno, and Ikebukuro. Then, the
commuters loop around on the Yamanote line
and exit at one of its stations or else transfer
to other smaller lines that run through the
heart of the city.
Riding around the entire Yamanote loop is
like witnessing a microcosm of Tokyo life.
If you started at Ueno Station, you would
see skinny Yakuza lackeys, smelling of smoke,
with bad perms and missing fingers, slouching
in the seats, their legs spread wide apart
in blatant disregard for decorum.
A few stops more and you would find yourself
at Akihabara station. Greasy-haired computer
geeks in black jeans would flood the train,
each carrying a new motherboard or CPU for
Ten minutes farther along is Tokyo Station
where the clone-like, blue-suited salary
men, heirs to fifty years of monotonous clerical
tradition, would shuffle on board. Nobody
would look you in the face.
Moving along, you'd eventually come to Shibuya
where you might get turned on by some really
sexy, dark-skinned Yamamba girl wearing 8-inch
platform boots and sporting an exposed midriff
that could melt chocolate.
Just one more stop and you'd be in Harajuku,
the haunt of costume-wearing teenagers and
international fashion models with bellybutton
A few more stops and the train would come
to Shinjuku where you would become instantly
intimate with the armpit of the guy standing
next to you as three hundred people try to
cram in to a car made for 75.
Finally, about 20 minutes later at Ikebukuro,
the car would expel its human cargo like
a giant metallic pimple, and a few paint-covered
carpenters and karaoke-booth busboys would
get on to the train and collapse, exhausted
into the now vacant seats.
A few more stops later and you'd be back
at Ueno Station, ready to do it all over
In other site news, I put a new search box
up on hunkabutta. You can see it in the top
left corner. Why don't you try it out and
let me know how it works.
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We went to Denise and Toshiro's wedding on
Sunday and it was great. They had a traditional
Japanese service that was full of minute
ritual details and intricate ceremonial clothing.
Both the ceremony and reception were held
at the Tokyo Prince Hotel, which is at the
foot of Tokyo Tower (Tokyo's answer to the
Eifel Tower). The ceremony started at 11:30
and was over by 12:00. The reception, nice
as it was, lasted for only 3 hours or so.
We were all out of there by 4:00 p.m. It
was refreshingly concise, just long enough
to meet everyone, eat a good meal, and get
a little drunk before heading home to have
a relaxing evening soaking in the bath.
Denise was beautiful in her white kimono
and bridal hood. I'm so glad that she
to have a traditional wedding. It was
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Today we went to a birthday party and tomorrow
we're going to a wedding. You can just call
us the festive family.
The birthday party was for Campbell, the
one-year-old son of Karen's friends Suzan
and Ron. It was really a lot of fun, and
I mean that. The wedding will be for Denise
and Toshiro, friends of mine from work. They're
going to have a traditional Japanese ceremony,
it should be pretty cool.
So, expect some interesting wedding pictures
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Tokyoites hate to accept help from anyone.
I'm not sure why this is.
Yesterday at about 4:30 p.m. I left the office
to go and get some money. I went to the bank
right across the street from the South exit
of Shibuya station. It's very large and always
full of people.
The bank itself was closed, but the lobby
was open. I walked through the giant automatic
glass doors, and inside there were about
30 ATMs grouped into three different sections.
I waited in line, got my money, and turned
to leave. A man in a blue suit walked out,
and at the same time a small middle-aged
woman darted in from the street, but she
wasn't quick enough. The doors closed on
her. She let out a shrill whelp, staggered
to the side, and then fell to the floor.
Nobody did anything. Nobody even looked at
her. A young woman walked right past her,
almost had to step over her. I walked over
to the injured woman, extended my hand, and
offered to help her up. She looked right
through me. Like I wasn't even there. She
staggered to her feet, her hand clutching
her side and stood there for moment grimacing.
Again I asked her if she was all right, but
again she ignored me. She hobbled around
me like I was a post or something, and went
to go wait in line for the ATM.
This is a very typical scene. I can think
of at least four or five other incidents
similar to this one that all went pretty
much the same way. The striking thing about
it all, from my foreigner's perspective,
is that not only will no one offer assistance,
but that the person in need will actually
I know that this story kind of makes the
bystanders out to be callous and unfeeling,
but that's not the case. The people here
are generally exceptionally kind and helpful,
in the right situations. Bystanders avoid
giving unrequested assistance because it's
their way of being tactful and minimizing
embarrassment for all parties concerned.
All that I know is that if happen to fall
down the stairs at the station one day, or
if I get my head stuck in the train door,
somebody better come to my aid or else I'll
tell them just what I think of their tact.
Tokyoites may hate accepting assistance,
but I haven't gone that native yet.
In other site news, Hunkabutta is now the
number one search result on Google for the
term 'Tokyo photos.' Cool, eh?