Making Sense of Different. / 9 September 2013
The wet weather has caught up with me. The morning was spent watching gallons of rain bucketing out of the sky and the planned sashimi in the Ginza district of Tokyo was replaced by a takeaway version. I was surprised to see the delivery in gold-decorated, black lacquered wooden bowls, with utensils, on a black wooden tray and accompanied by a stainless steel thermos flask of soup.
The food was delicious and one leaves the empty stuff, in the bag provided, down in the entrance lobby where it is collected later, or next day if it is an evening meal. Honesty and Trust feature strongly in Japanese society.
Typically the weather cleared and the trip to Ginza was able to go ahead. We strolled in in reasonable comfort, it was about 30C with 90% humidity; the planned purchase of a SIM card which had somehow been overlooked, was on this day's to-do list.
The phoneshop in Ginza is elegant. A lot of glass: a big coffee table, frosted walls, mirrors and display cases; easy chairs, magazines to read while you wait, large screen advertising and of course phones. We take a ticket, seat ourselves in (and beside) leather armchairs and browse magazines for the predicted 30 minute wait.
We are then taken through to a separate room with chairs gathered around wooden tables where the transaction will take place. And this time ID is demanded. The passport is produced, which of course reveals that the holder is gaijin, a foreigner, so the gaijin card follows. So far so good. After about half an hour of answering questions, ticking boxes and offering up cash (the Japanese credit card is rejected for this particular transaction) the deal is finally done.
Googling (my frustration at) this absurd seeming problem I discover other visitors with same, or greater, difficulty. And one person who explains that SoftBank actually sell the SIM card on what is technically a one year contract. Without Japanese documentation of a Japanese address the SIM is not available. Japanese adhere strictly to rules and regulations.
When the rest of our jobs are completed, I check out a few galleries in the vicinity, but decide that the only one that will get onto my must-see list is 21_21 Design Sight back in Roppongi. I visit it every year and have not been disappointed yet.
This year Dai Fujiwara, former Creative Director at Issey Miyake, directs his own exhibition, from June 21, entitled “Color Hunting.”
We decide to take the metro home and discover we have a longish wait of 15, maybe 20 mins. The earlier heavy rain resulted in some trains having to be cancelled and things are still just a little out of sync. it takes these extra few minutes to organise the man with the ramp at our destination station. We are kept informed by bowing, helpful (and very chatty) station staff who explain that if our destination was just a little closer they would sent a man-with-a-ramp with us, as it is they deeply regret our delay.
The strict adherence to rules is not always a blank-faced, mindless procedure.
He doesn't look quite
Japanese, I said
indicating the stranger
about his bone structure
to his dark hair;
speaking the language
a hint of hesitation. Can you tell
where he comes from?
Curious about Japanese
attitude to accents;
The people listen,
shake their heads:
No, but he's a half.
like innocent children
with Golly toys, unaware
that half is not my way
to identify people.