Random Observations. | Japan | Living in Mexico

Random Observations.

Advertisements for apartment rentals give floor space in tsubo, a measurement of area equal to the floor space covered by two tatami mats—about 35 square feet. A typical apartment in central Tokyo proper might contain 12 tsubo (430 square feet or so) and rent for $3,000 per month, plus key money equal to six months rent. Average Japanese salarymen avoid paying these kinds of rents by commuting by train for maybe 2-3 hours per day. You see them on trains, sleeping away, somehow waking up when they reach their stations.

Speaking of trains, they're a central fact of life; the way to get around in Japan. Cars are expensive. Before you can buy a car in Tokyo
you have to prove you have a parking space for it, and they don't mean on the street. Given the cost of enough tsubo to park your car, we're talking about a major expense here, and you don't even own the car yet. Then, gas is expensive—maybe triple the cost in the U. S. or Mexico.

And you have to get your car inspected every three years. Big deal you say? Well, the inspection involves disassembling the car. Costs about $3,000. That's enough to affect the price of a used car as it approaches its inspection date. Sort of like the ex-dividend date for a common stock.

So most people take trains. You've all seen pictures of the uniformed guys straining to push people into trains so the doors will close. Trains are so crowded that most people don't get seats. Tough for a two-hour trip. But look at it this way. If you're tired, just relax your knees. The press of bodies will keep you upright. Need to sleep? Just lean on your neighbor. Nobody minds. It's expected.

What's not welcomed is groping. Apparently some Japanese men take advantage of the crush to fondle nearby women, who often cannot even identify who is doing it, mush less escape their unwanted attentions. The solution has been to reserve some cars for women during the peak of the rush hour. Hibaya Line. Three cars. Women only, 7:30-9:00 AM. Honestly!

Then there's the advertising in railway cars. For example, the Japanese are into the functioning and health of their alimentary canals, and aren't ashamed to share their intestinal fixations with with anyone. Their blasé attitudes result in ads like the following:


Here we have what appear to be smiling gophers assisting the movement of pink turds in their passage through the transverse and descending colon. One is applying water from a watering can to inflate them and get rid of a bunch of nasty little spikes. (Did you know that there was such a condition?) The other gopher seems to be giving the pink blobs a little extra push, like a colonic JATO, to get them launched. I don't know what the serious-looking third one is saying: probably a product warning. Stand clear after taking!

Honestly, this is an image you really don't want to stumble across in the early morning.

Why gophers? Why do they have little bags hanging from their shoulders? What's in the bags? If you grew up in Japan, this probably would be entirely clear.

In a drugstore, I saw a product called "Melty Cure." What do you think it might be? The packaging gave no clues. Maybe "Melty Cure" is the product that the gophers are pushing.


All this alimentary canal discussion reminds me of a few more food observations:

• I've now passed several restaurants offering "Salted fish guts" for two. Nope. Not for me. The other night, however, I did eat a mucus salad. Not a repeater.

• I saw a place called "Jazzy Coffee and Curry." Just the combo I was hankering for.

• And finally, the Japanese call Christmas fruitcake "25-year-old vrigin," because—you know—nobody ever eats one. (Sorry).