Same Procedure as Last Time / 7 September 2014
At my local Tokyo metro station I flick my Passmo plastic on the screen to get through the wider accessible gate and catch the eye of the guy in the info booth. I wait, carefully out of the way of streaming commuters, while the ramp man does his checks. He unpacks the ancient-looking platform lift that will transport me down the two flights of steps. He has stopped panicking when I reverse in, but still demands 'braki oni' when he forgets our unspoken agreement to just watch me do it.
He controls the platform with a handset and usually a second person directs traffic safely around the operation. A high-pitched bleeper also warns of the hazard. The procedure always happens slowly and carefully. People in general are advised against rushing.
On the train platform there is a designated place to wait. This time I'm given a whole mass of mostly incomprehensible information as the train halts; there are two wheelborne people on board and my ramp man will also be their ramp man, so he is putting me in the picture.
The usual white-gloved hand signal to the train driver, indicating that a wheelborne needs access, is unnecessary this time as the driver is aware of his own wheelborne passengers alighting here.
I wait in just the right place while the two people are wheeled off and ramp man is obviously delighted that things are going so smoothly. Safe and efficient management of people movement is very important in Japan.
At a nearby road works I am regularly escorted around the hazard (which is well fenced off) by a man with a red flag. At each end of the coned and fenced off area are men with white flags - in case traffic needs to be directed.
The station ramps are strictly for wheelborne people. They are normally whisked away before people with baby carriages might be tempted to use them, occasionally the staff do turn a blind eye. Staff will assist by lifting baby carriages up flights of steps or over larger gaps, but only if they are empty of baby.
The platform lift makes no exceptions. I watched a man on crutches struggle up the two flights of steps while the lift travelled slowly up behind him.
Health and Safety rules the world.
On the metro I notice shoes. Gone are
last year's, or was it the one before, black
and chestnut-brown winkle-pickers in too
large sizes curled from the ends of business
men's toes. Gents shoes this year are a black and
round-nosed, moccasin style, smaller. Also,
on the street, shoes lined up outside a new
konbini - convenience store, before
it opens, one last check in stockinged feet.
Nursery-school entrance little lockers
with shelf for parent shoes and one for child
shoes and careful newspaper on floor for
guest shoes. Ladies shoes are modernising:
flats and high, impossible heels in bright
doll colours. Geta with kimono and
divided-toe socks regaining ground as
no more unlikely than teetering
Tokyo in catwalk stilettos.