Comparisons are Inevitable


Tokyo Subway System
Toronto Subway System

You don’t want to compare but, for serious, you just can’t help it, if for no other reason than the laughable repetition from local boosters that Toronto is a “world class” city. Let me say this: in the six days we spent in Tokyo, we heard not one argument, saw no trash on the immaculately-swept streets (which, curiously, held no trash receptacles, either), saw no acts of aggression or rudeness, encountered no swaggering and overentitled teenagers, heard no insultingly banal rap or hip-hop music blaring from automobile monster-bass subwoofers and heard no more than three car horns honking.

Nearly thirteen million people live in Tokyo.

We even ate in a “family” restaurant teeming with children — none of whom screamed or yelled or demanded or frolicked between the tables like it was their own, private playground — and the loudest sounds we heard were plates clattering in the kitchen and the giggles of a few delighted toddlers.

And the subways! Initially daunting (see above), the Tokyo subway system is a marvel of simplicity and efficiency, in which trains arrive at exactly the moment they’re due and routes can be determined in seconds from the helpful and attraction-comprehensive maps at every station. No noise or rudeness or macho posturing or yelling or strollers or food or trash on the subway stations or cars, either. And a 3000 yen passcard (approximately $30) lasted for fully five days of nonstop travel.

Tokyo Subway Car
The Toronto Transit cops would detain me for taking a photo like this at home. For real.

And though to draw sweeping conclusions from such a limited exposure to Japanese society would be foolish, to not do so would also be impossible. In the Japan we saw, “freedom” does not include the freedom to be loud, boorish, entitled, belligerent, confrontational, wasteful, stupid, slovenly and inefficient. “Freedom” is the freedom to operate within a society as an equal participant, to respect the space and desires and rights of others, not freedom as license to do whateverthefuck you want to do, at everyone else’s expense. I swear, I shall pass out from the sheer stupidity of the next person I hear speak of their belligerently-imagined “rights” in such a pig-ignorant and cavalier fashion.

Five minutes after leaving my apartment on return to Toronto, I was crossing on a WALK signal at the corner of the most famous intersection in Canada, Yonge & Bloor. I was honked at by a motorist who felt I wasn’t WALKing fast enough (and I’m a speedwalker compared to most). When I turned around to find out whatthefuck, he yelled “move it, faggot!”

Welcome home! (I actually had to laugh. I mean, it’s not like I was walking around with a cock in my mouth or anything.)

Oh, one more thing: Neck Face is Ugly.

Neck Face is Ugly
Rare Graffiti in Tokyo.

2 Responses to “Comparisons are Inevitable”

  1. 1 Raquel

    I’ve spent a lot of time in Japan (especially Tokyo) and I don’t think your conclusions are far off. They have their problems, but for the most part they respect each other. Their crime rates are amazingly low for such a large concentration of people.
    They are still behind us in the complete fair treatment of women department. As a woman traveling alone at night may not get you killed, but getting harassed by drunk middle-aged men is not uncommon. (I had one follow me home after repeatedly telling him I would not go to a bar with him or teach him English.)
    The rudest thing that happened to me there had to be when I was pushed out of the way by a tiny old Japanese lady. I was more amused than offended of course.
    Loved all your entries. Definitely made me miss Tokyo.

  2. 2 Nancy

    I agree with Rachel. There was nothing as special about my visit to Tokyo as experiencing the subway at 8:00 p.m. as I rode back to my hotel. I shared the train with a bunch of drunk businessmen. Me? Just a six-foot blonde, a novelty to be groped (or to try and grope), apparently. I think it was a very good thing I did not speak Japanese or my size ten shoe may have ended up in unanticipated places.

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