Laptop open, iPod tuned to the Replacements, I glide effortlessly above the never ending sprawl of suburban Tokyo. Blasting down the track at 60+ miles per hour on board the Shinkansen I marvel at the technical wonders of our age. How such technology could flower in such a short period of human history is astounding. Even as recently as my parents generation, a dumpy middle aged, middle management, white guy could never have dreamed of being here and experiencing the things I take for granted every day. I am a lucky, lucky man.
But as impressive as our age of electronic gadgetry and high speed travel may be, they pale behind the one advancement of mankind that has single handedly transformed the way we live. I am speaking, of course, of the To-Go Cup. Where would our culture be without mobile beverages? Say what you want about Mass-Produced-American-Mc-Culture, but where would humanity be now without our freedom from the tyranny of stationary refreshment?
This was brought home again to me at 6am this morning as I walked the 2 blocks from my hotel to the nearest McDonalds and returned with a cup of coffee. And again, one hour later when I returned to the Excelsior Coffee shop and picked up another cup. But as Americanized as Japan has become, there are still some things that they are struggling to embrace. You can order a coffee to go, and they will give you a paper cup with a sippy lid full of top shelf Arabica brew, but they insist on placing the cup into a little paper bag, and handing it to you so that you can carry it with you like a school kid on their way to school. Clearly they have a lot to learn about the pleasures of mobile refreshment. Oh well, Rome wasn’t built in a day either.
So began another day of shooting about Tokyo in public transit, punctuated by brief interludes of head nodding, and polite discussion. 36 million souls coursing through the veins of this metropolis as orderly as could be. Nowhere else on earth do so many people exist in such close proximity, and appear completely unaware or each other’s presence. It’s amazing really. The level of politeness of the average Japanese citizen knows no bounds. They ride the trains and walk the streets in utter silence. Absorbed in their own little worlds, careful not to speak, or talk on the phone, chew gum, or eat or drink in public. In fact, one of the great mysteries of Japan is how they manage to survive without dehydrating. Despite the ubiquitous vending machines placed every 100 feet along the sidewalk, I have yet to see anyone drinking out of a bottle of Pocari Sweat, or Kirin Green Tea, or a can of Suntory Coffee Boss. I know, because I have been looking non-stop for the last 3 days. It’s become something of an obsession. So help me God, but sooner or later I will catch a Japanese person drinking a beverage in public.
In the mean time I will continue to oogle pigeon toed Japanese women in short skirts, devour as much raw seafood as is humanly possible, and defy convention by drinking coffee while I walk. Cause that’s just how I roll.