I was born in Tokyo, grew up in Tokyo and live in Tokyo.
It is the perfect place to live efficiently. There are countless subways, trains, buses and various other lines, and their times are never far off schedule. It is rare case that your schedule is shattered by traffic accidents except cars. There are countless restaurants, cafes and bars, which are inexpensive compared to foreign cities. There are clean, flushable toilets everywhere. Toilet seats are rarely broken. Hospitality, which should never be taken for granted, is taken for granted. In the restaurants, the food you ordered is served relatively quickly.
You will get a lot of apologies by the slightest thing. For me, it’s sad that all stations are becoming more and more similar, but because of this similarity, there is no need to be troubled to find something usual at any station. There are similar cafés, similar drugstores, similar clothing shops. Once you get used to this rules, you can enjoy a similar lifestyle anywhere without having to think too much. You also can be a ‘customer’ every place in here. I like this city. I live efficiently in this city, and then I focus on using the most of my abilities. I can live without thinking too deeply about anything else except my own life.
We feel that convenience is taken for granted. We think that our selfishness as ‘customers’ should be accepted. The selfishness is what we take for granted.
And even if you are in a job where you are serving the ‘customer’ to the best of your ability, once you step out of the place where you are working, everyone becomes a ‘customer’ themselves.
Perhaps this is why this place is cold. If you talk to people one by one, many of them are kind, but the city is cold.
I think it’s because we think that if we are cold against the other, the person can live here without a care.
Let’s think if you are not in Tokyo but in the desert.
The relentless sun will deprive from you both energy and water. With no shelter from the sun and no landmarks, you will quickly get lost and run out of power.
The tent-like ‘gers’ are mobile homes that can be built in a couple of hours. The ger, which is more solid than it looks, is built towards the south. The reason for this is so that someone who is lost can get a sense of direction just by seeing the ger. And more. Some of the gers are unlocked. So that if someone who is dying of thirst comes to them for help, the person can enter the ger and drink water on their own. Indeed, if you reach an empty and locked ger when you are almost die, there is nothing but despair. By the time the family returns, it is possible that you have already died.
This is why everyone who I met is kind, I think. Because they know if they are cold againt strangers, the strangers will die. If we don’t care for each other, death will suddenly come to the next door.
I heard a true horror story that has been passed down in the desert.
The film crew had just finished shooting a film and passed by a single, isolated ger. An old woman came out of the ger and invited them to have a cup of tea. Everyone drunk that. But only one person, the driver, felt strange. The tea she had just made was not warm. So he didn’t drink it. After that, everyone who drank the tea died.”
When I heard this story, I was surprised at how different it was from Japanese horror stories. To us Japanese, this is not a scary story. But the desert is next to death. Maybe that’s why ‘death’ appears as a horror.
This is not like in Japan. In Japanese scary stories, we have ghosts, yokai, phantom, demon, goblin, ogre… as a horror.
Death appears as a result, but more than death we heel a horror against “something not human being”. “Something that we, human being can’t understand”. When they reach us, it’s just a horror.
At night, I opened the door of the ger and went outside. The endless desert. A dry wind blowing through. I imagined fossilised creatures under the earth. Things that died a long time ago.
I remember the night I looked around in the mountains and fields in Japan. I felt countless ‘lives’. Animals living in the mountains and fields, something not human being that we can’t even tell whether we can see them or not. Then there was the presence of the mountain itself.
Right there, I felt the presence of beings different from us.
Yes, when we feel this, we feel a tremendous fear and a sense of awe.
Fear of death.
Fear of beings different from us.
The tenderness in the desert.
The coldness in Tokyo.
The quality of human emotions.
I was thinking about these things as I felt the blowing sand.
If you want to read in Japanese, here!
-8- Journey to the Gobi Desert
-9- Chuang-tzu’s “The Dream of a Butterfly”
-10- Red land, Bayanzag