[2012/10/06]: Back in 1997, an e-mail acquaintance sent me this: "[Can you write about] more impressions of your environment - what it looks/sounds/smells/tastes/feels like? Any particular favorite places? What is the layout of the land like? (Hilly? Flat? Crowded with buildings? Tenements? Factories? All mixed up?) Where are the gardens, and what do they look like? What does it feel like going from point-A to point-B?" - and in answer I wrote this:
With the above in mind, I wrote down the following by hand while out and about a few days ago:
97/06/10 - 21:29: I'm now on a commuter line train, leaving the city center, but not escaping it's grasp. I'm sitting between a woman with her eyes closed (not asleep) on my right, and a man on my left. Two men standing to my right seem to be enjoying an alcohol afterglow as they talk and laugh. A stern-faced man standing off to my left gives me the evil eye. The man seated on my left gets off the train... 'evil-eye' sits next to me. There's that vampire aspect.., whatever it is, I don't like it, so I'm standing up, moving.
Now I'm standing in the middle of the train. In the old days, I wouldn't have moved as a matter of principle, but it just drains your energy, and what's the point?
I'm on a local train to escape the purgatory of the express trains.., at another of the frequent stops, a seated man gets off, enabling me to sit down again, and I'm away from the vampire. I'm only happy to be in a different space, and don't feel 'run out'. What is this abandonment of principle? I think there are just too many battles, so you get to a point where you realize that saving energy is the most important thing.
21:42 - Now the train is half-empty, as it's nearing the end of the line. I'll have to change trains to get where I'm going, but when I imagine everyone smashed together on the express train right now, I don't care when I get home. Now the train is waiting for an express to pass... there it is, rushing past with everyone all smashed together. If you spend a couple of hours in one of those sardine trains every day, it affects you... and not in a good way. Never mind the rest of the day, you're tired before you even start work for the day.
I don't know, if I could transport myself from this train and these people to other trains in other countries to compare, I could say something more meaningful. I only know, as I sit beneath the glaring florescent lights on this punctual, functional, but not very attractive train, that I want to live a different way than this.
21:56 - Second train (after transferring). There's a seat... The young woman on my right is showing her boyfriend her new passport. How will she (they?) view the world from outside Japan?
97/06/12 - 20:57: Shibuya. In a building by an open window on the fourth floor. Looking out the window, as the Yamanote Line trains rumble by through the trees... in the middle of the busy four lane road below, there are five people on a traffic island arranging flowers and food - one man is trying to light a candle... I can only imagine that a friend of theirs died in a traffic accident near there. Yes... no mistake - they are praying now.
Just as I wrote that, work called and soon thereafter the manager of the place came over and shut the window, which wouldn't have been much of a problem, but he has a row of air fresheners in the bathroom on the window sill, and their chemical smell is overpowering. It's a small thing, but it shows what I'm always battling in Tokyo. The unfortunate scene below notwithstanding, this building in Shibuya is next to a park, so there are leaves - green leaves to see and hear (when the wind blows) through the open window. The man shuts the window, cutting me off from that to which I want a connection, and then there's that horrible chemical smell that I don't want invading my lungs. Don't other people miss a connection to live plants, to the open sky?
Lyle (Hiroshi) Saxon