Tokyo Vignettes

Posted on 17.04.2012


A few tiny, interesting or funny things have happened in the week-point-five that I’ve been here, and it feels fitting to put them all in one place:)

On the train: Groping?
I was standing on the train with the girls one night on our way to or from somewhere. The train was relatively empty and there was plenty of room to stand. In fact, I coud have sat down if I felt so inclined, but for some reason, I didn’t.

As I was standing there, a guy I’d noticed who had been at the back of the train walked past me, towards the front of the train. As he did it, he just barely brushed up against my side. I moved out of the way, out of habit, and went right along talking to the girls. Instead of getting off at the next stop, the guy had just walked to the other end of the train to sit down. It was then, as I saw that he wasn’t going anywhere and was kind of sitting at the opposite end of the train, looking back at me, that I realized that I might have just experienced my first on-train groping.

I thought it over in my head, and didn’t remember the brush-by involving an open hand against my body. It was more like an ‘I tried to go around you but you’re taking up the whole row’ kind of move, one I’m used to in the land of body-checks from old ladies with walkers.

So, if I was in fact groped, then by all means, Japanese men, ‘grope’ away!!! That was nothing compared to people who AREN’T interested in touching me in Germany, I didn’t even think anything of it. I could be ok with that. If it had been open-hand, however, it might have ended in punches.

But, culture differences… amazing.


The Price of the Sword…

At some point in our training, Sensei talked with us about buying swords. We were talking about buying a custom sword for our height, so drawing it would be easier. He mentioned that the site that makes these is rather expensive. Someone asked if it mattered if we had a cheaper sword that was just the same size, and he said ‘the price of the sword is not important if you know how to use it’.

I really appreciate that he said this, because it is exactly what I say to people regarding cameras and colleges. Apparently, this thought applies to life.


Shortest Conversation EVER.

We were on the train coming back from Tokyo. I was sitting on one side, and A and G were across from me. I was next to a teenaged girl who was reading an English book. It was like a dictionary, but with a ton of sentence examples and complete with word stress directions. I thought it was awesome. I didn’t want to talk to her, because I didn’t want to scare her into speaking (or not wanting to speak) English. So instead, I just sat next to her and occasionally looked at her book.

Just before she got off, she looked up at me after I’d been talking with A and G, and I looked at her book. I said ‘English’, and she said ‘English’ and smiled. Then she pointed into the book , to a word, and read it: ‘success’, she said.

I didn’t know if she was asking about pronunciation or stating that she successfully understood what we’d said, so I just repeated it back to her ‘success’. And smiled.

Then the train stopped, and she said ‘bye bye’ and got up to leave. I said goodbye.

It was awesome.


When in doubt, hail a cab.

We took a 400-meter cab ride in Harajuku because we thought we were lost. It turns out, we weren’t lost, just not there yet. And drunk. I think the cab driver thought we were mentally challenged. Or drunk.


English Funny

One of the best things about Japan is the messed-up English that is printed on EVERYTHING. There are full websites cataloguing this phenomenon, but it’s always exciting to find them on your own.

I had my own experience, on the train (as always). I was sitting down and a woman next to me was standing. This is what her bag said:

“I saw you sad.

And your sadness is very sexy.

Strong fragile man you know what I mean?

because this is love, maybe”

(further down):
A lifeless ordinary.


Just excellent.



Posted in: budo, travel