Do you see that road in the right hand corner of the photo? Not the one with cars on it but the one above it with no white lines. Its an elevated paved path, on one side is a 10 ft slope to a heavily trafficked road and on the other is a 30 ft steep slope to the park below. I use this path to commute. Sometimes when I am riding my bicycle home from work in the dark, unable to see the pavement because of the oncoming headlights below me my mind has time to wander. I think about how folks in Japan must view space. I was born in West Texas where space was plenty and people where few. The idea of owning the rights to the air in my immediate vicinity, or the right not to be touched or ran into if avoidable, were ingrained subconsciously.
My friend Gen lives in Yokohama and he says I live in a small town (Okayama only has two million people, small for Japan.) “Okayama..... I think that’s so country,” says he. Even in a so called country town in West Japan it is impossible for a person who’s idea of peace often involves images of open spaces and open roads not to feel their ideologies stood on head. Going from riding a motorbike to not at all. The absence of a quick forward motion. The absence of the quick forward motion of the workshop and friends within, into the congestion of a crowded set of islands. An amazing place. Old ladies push me out of the way on train platforms and run into me at the grocery store. High schoolers play bicycle chicken with me on congested walkways. But it’s not chicken to them, its just riding. And the old ladies have earned their place on the platform. They don’t have to ask for it. Its just sharing space. Something we don’t have to do to anywhere near the extent that most East Asians do every minute of their lives. My inner desire to challenge those perceived intruders has all but faded to a laugh (I imagine the day when the bicycle handlebar locking scenario takes place, but it won’t by some Asian miracle.) Now those interactions are more like being tickled by another culture.
Just back from whirlwind trip to the states, three states, friends and family. Then transported back to the picture that you see above. Fast to slow. Motorbike to bicycle and my feet standing on train platforms. My ninth floor view. Should it go without saying that sometimes we must slow down see what we have?