Tuesday, 24 June 2008
You must notice that I exist
Manos and his wife Libia have been living in Tokyo, Japan for about a year now. The country is not very hospitable to foreigners - there is a high rate of racism but in a very subtle fashion. They could not get a house to rent as they were not Japanese and flat owners were refusing non-Japanese to be living in their flat. Hence they found a flat in the chinese neighoborhood. Not a self-respecting Japanese would be caught dead living there, as Chinese are considered probably the lowest life form. According to Manos the place is vivid, colorful with cute little chinese restaurants.
The country culture is also quite unique. Libia was telling me stories about their real estate agent was calling them to tell them that they had placed their garbage in the wrong box. The cartons in the place of the real garbage. Their neighbor who saw that thought that it would be extremely embarassing for the young couple to face an older lady telling them about such a grave mistake.
On the good side, they enjoy living in a crimeless city. Tokyo, despite being one of the world's top 5 megacities with more than 20million people, is one of the safest places to live. Libia was telling me how she could forget her purse somewhere and if she was to go there the next day she would find it at the same place intact. Shop owners leave their merchandise unattended outside their stores with no cameras monitoring them as there is no crime. Actually very little things could be more embarassing than be caught stealing. Talk about losing face.
And living in one of the world's most populated cities with such little room for each one to breath, means that everyone has to obey rules. Any non-conformity to the rule would risk the balance of harmony. People respect other's space - to a ridiculous level perhaps if seen from a western angle.
In that context, it is shocking that earlier this June Tomohiro Kato, 25, a part-time worker in a car parts factor, decided to go out and kill some people in Tokyo's Akihabara market, one of the busiest electronic gadgets shopping districts. Not only did he leave 7 people dead, but he had notified everybody that was going to do that. He was sending out messages on the internet. Hhis first post was logged at 5:21 a.m. Sunday on a mobile phone website and was titled, "I will kill people in Akihabara."I want to crash the vehicle and, if it is rendered useless, then I will use a knife. Goodbye everyone." In his final chilling message, posted at 12:10, Kato simply stated, "It is time." Twenty minutes later, Kato drove the lorry into three pedestrians before leaping from the cab and knifing one of the men that he had run over. Witnesses have described Kato as "shrieking" and roaring like an animal as he indiscriminately attacked passers-by with a survival knife.
It is really shocking that in such an ordelry place such an unexpected mass killing took place. Shocking yes. But I don't know whether or not it is surprising. Living in such a rule abiding place that no-one should be different than the next person perhaps creates a deep need to stand out. Choosing to do that in such a horrible manner indicates the sickness of the person in question. Yet, in my mind it also indicates the need of individualism to find its place in such a collective culture. Extremes are always to be avoided. The median is trully the best place to be. Aristotle said so a couple of thousand years ago and it is still true