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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

6 comments:

george g. said...

Wonderful and very insightful POV on Japan. I wonder if you have been there yourself? I have been there more than 15 times over the last 30 years. My last time was 2 years ago. It is changing though very fast. Advice to your bro. "Don't try to play it the Japanese way. Be yourself. They will respect you more".
The thing I didn't like is the Aristotle thing at the end about being average and in the middle of the road. Not to be recommended.

Zeta Tsatsani said...

Median does not mean average. It is just the place in the middle of the two extremes. It does not imply the average.
No, I have not been in Japan.

George Georgitsis said...

Median is in the middle.Ex: 3,4,5,6,7. 5 is the median. There is no better definition of "middle of the road" that I used in my previous comment. Defense rests.

Zeta Tsatsani said...

Have you read Aristotle? Median actually could be a bad translation of 'metro'
Meaning that you must not be too individualistic or too collectivist. If one holds a position at any of the two extremes will not be ethical. Same is true for society. Too collective or too individualistic and the society is sick.Another example: If a person all he cares about is achieving then people will not like him/her and he will end up alone. If a person all s/he cares is about giving, then people will take advantage of him/her and relationships will not be real. I can think of better examples. What I am trying to say is that the 'metro' is virtue. Another word that perhaps is more modern could be balance or equilibrium

George Georgitsis said...

Ah!Metron is totally different and I totally agree with him and consequently with you.

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