Wednesday, 5 December 2012

A DAY IN THE LIFE -- 2012 Japan Election Diary: Day 19

Click here to go to Day 1 of the 2012 Japan Election Diary.



He fought back the bile rising in the back of his throat and got on the train.
He was a moment too slow and was pushed into the centre of the carriage, but was a person too late and couldn't make it into the relative comfort of the gangway where people could stand three-deep. Instead he was hemmed in on all sides by men in suits in a mass of bodies being held up by sheer force of the group. He couldn't move his legs or his hands even if he wanted too. Just 40 minutes until he could get off.

But he couldn't complain. He was a head taller than most folk, so had a better chance of getting a fresh pocket of air, and he wouldn't be the one who had to wipe other people's sweat off his brow in the summertime. Although with the hot air heaters on full blast this December morning, his sweat would end up on the guy whose head was rammed into his armpit. There was nothing to be done.

***

Thirty thousand kept coming up today. I don't know if that means anything. Probably not, it's probably just a random coincidence that once noticed becomes a self-fulfilling trend, like noticing a large number of election posters for the New Komeito candidate and then before you know it, all you can see are election posters for New Komeito because that's all you are looking for. If I'd happened to spot the Your Party guy I'd be mentally mapping his John Lennon specs and not the pudgy face of the LDP guy. There's probably a name for this phenomenon, but in case there isn't I'll call it posterism. Anyway, instances of 30,000 noticed today:
30,000 is the number of deaths in the USA due to road accidents every year.
30,000 deaths from firearms in the USA every year.
$30,000 (actually $36,585 at prevailing exchange rates) is the cost of a deposit to run for a single seat in the lower house of the Japanese Diet. 
30,000 suicides in Japan per year.

***

He sat in the doctor's waiting room and stared absently at the health and safety poster for several minutes before he realised it was the inside of a diseased intestine and not a tunnel of the Ginza Line.
"Doctor, there's something wrong with me. Why can't I do what everybody else can do so easily?"
"What do you mean?"
"I look around at the people on the train with their briefcases and suits, listening to iPods and reading the Nikkei Shimbun and I think: I can't do this anymore."
"You're just tired. Take the pills I gave you and have a few days off."
"I don't want a few days off. My whole life has been off. I WANT TO BE ON. I can't explain. Do you know what I mean?"
"Have a few days off. I'll write you a note you can show to your boss. These pills will calm you down. Everything will be OK."

***

This blog series
 is now a great
 book. Honest.
Cleaned up and
 all presentable,
Guts Pose: Diary of a
 Japanese election
 gone bad
features a previously
unpublished afterword
 by me and foreword
by Michael Cucek.
You can buy it here.
Looking back, I can pinpoint the moment that changed my life.
If I'd arrived a couple of seconds later, or the crowd hadn't separated just as it had, I could well have missed it and my life would have continued on an entirely different trajectory to the one that led me here to this part of the world, this life, to the end of this particular sentence.
It was a copy of the Daily Mirror in a Derby Sainsbury's newsstand eight years ago.

I'd been trying, half-heartedly, to give up smoking for three years, and this time round I'd made it two days before pulling in to the supermarket car park with every intention to buy a packet of ten B&H.
I don't remember any of the details of the splash, but it was something about tobacco bosses admitting they knew their products would kill their customers. It was enough to give me the resolve to turn around and get back in my car, without buying the cigarettes.
At work on Monday, a whole department had disappeared over the weekend, moved to Blackburn, Lancashire, or someplace I'd never been and there was talk of more changes to come. We'd have to amalgamate the editorial department with Nottingham and Leicester into a super sub-editing "centre of excellence" as management called it, though even they couldn't say it with a straight face. Possibly in Lancashire someplace.
Super.
If I could give up smoking, I was in control. If I was in control, I could quit the job before I was pushed. If I could quit, I could run my own business. If I could run my own business, I could go anywhere, I'd never need to know how many holes it takes to fill the Albert Hall.
Though, today, I wouldn't bet against it being 30,000.

***

He was pushed off the train by the mass of people and the trickle of cold air from the streets outside seeping down the escalators actually felt soothing until he got to the top and was out of the bowels of the ground and onto street level.
Nihombashi was a concrete grid of streets, elevated highways, steel and glass tower blocks of trapped air. He worked in a basement. In a room no bigger than his bathroom at home, but at least his bathroom had a window.
In college he'd been taught to use his hands to make things but now his hands were for pressing preset buttons on the phone and typing commands into a computer.
"I can't do this anymore."
"Don't talk nonsense."
"This life is a prison."
"You're crazy. Don't be so selfish. Someone of your age can't expect to walk in to another job like this. This is a Nikkei-listed company. Think of what you are leaving behind. Think of your responsibilities. Think of your wife and children."
"I am. I quit."

Go to DAY 20

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