Reading ‘Underground’ is making me a bit paranoid

Posted on 05.05.2014

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For those of you who don’t know about Murakami’s book Underground, it’s a non-fiction account of the sarin gas attacks on the Tokyo subway lines back in the 90’s. I’ve been reading it at the boyfriend’s recommendation. It’s good, except it’s having a bit of an effect on me.

The subway trains that were attacked are trains that I take all the time. The one I take every morning was one of them, and the attacks happened around when I go to work. This is disconcerting, and it’s a bit hard to read on the subway when I travel to and from the office, to tell the truth. It’s actually slowed my reading a bit.

I noticed something else happened to me, too.

unnamed-1This is a crumpled up piece of paper. It was in the middle of the hall in my train station.

There aren’t many public trash cans around Tokyo. This is a good way to keep the streets clean and apparently, deter terrorists from leaving bombs in bins? That was one student’s idea when I asked about the lack of trash cans a while ago.

So normally, you don’t see trash on the street here. It’s super-clean, and awesome. But it means that when you DO happen to see trash, if you were brought up like I was, that you’re even MORE inclined to pick it up and throw it away, even though it might mean carrying said piece of trash all the way back home.

The sarin gas in the attacks was distributed in plastic bags, that were folded inside of newspapers and crushed on the floor of subway trains. In one instance, someone on one of the the attacked trains kicked the ‘trash’ out of the train and onto the platform. They didn’t know what it was, just that it was a stinky piece of crumpled paper.

When I saw this crumpled piece of paper last week, I instinctively went to pick it up so I could throw it away. Then I paused, because it could have been a sarin-doused piece of paper.

I highly doubt anyone would be dumb enough to copycat the attacks like that, but still. I can’t believe I even paused to think. I can’t decide if it’s good to be so cautious, or if I shouldn’t be concerned that it could happen again.

Tokyo as a city is ridiculously safe compared to other places, and easily one of the safest places I’ve ever been in. Considering this is the country that gave us Kobudo and evil hentai sex monsters, the chances of something bad happening to a person here are really low. So I don’t need to be as on-guard as I was in, say, Baltimore. But still, I don’t want to lose it, either. The sarin attacks happened a long time ago, and I can’t imagine they’d happen again.

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Posted in: books