Thursday, November 20, 2008

Why are there so many Unhappy People in Tokyo?

As many of you may know I was not raised in a city. In fact, I have spent the majority of my life living in mountains. Furthermore, my cultural background is rooted in the American south. These simple, yet very important facts, may be a huge factor in my lack of understanding as to why there appears to be so many unhappy people living in Tokyo.

I have had my experiences with city life in America. I lived in Norfolk,VA for a summer and spent some decent amount of time in St. Louis, Mo. I even made a trip to NYC and Vegas as well. For several years I was making regular trips to Tokyo to spend time with the love of my life M.K. Although, now a days living in Tokyo is my first experience with daily life in a city. I have been living within the walls of Tokyo for almost a full ten months. I have only left Tokyo once in these past ten months and that was only to go to M.K.`s home city for golden week. Anyway, for ten months I have been learning about city life in Japan of all places. I assume that all cities have similar up and downs. There are days when the heart of a city is bright and full of hope and other days when a city can be a open gate to hell. What really gets me is that I see and come in contact with so many unhappy people in Tokyo.

Sometimes these unhappy people tell me why they are so unhappy with life in Tokyo. Other times they do not say a word to me. I can see their unhappiness in their eyes. The kind of unhappiness I see and hear is not the normal kind of things that most people in Tokyo do not like. These people have a deep unhappiness which cannot be fixed with a few kind words or a long soft hug. The mass unhappiness I see in Tokyo has a much more deeper reason. I am coming to the conclusion that it is a cultural problem which is causing many people to feel so damn unhappy.

From what I have gathered though talking to many Japanese people is that Tokyo is ripe for a major cultural shift in thinking. A lot of Japanese I have talked seem to be in favor of a more libertarian kind of cultural progress. They seem to be fed up with all the tight cultural rules and lack of free will within their society. The common complaint I hear is, `I do not feel that I can fully express myself.` Maybe this feeling of not being able to fully express ones self is the root of the mass unhappiness in Tokyo among Japanese people.

While I am not Japanese and was not raised in their culture I can see and understand the complaint of not being able to fully express ones self. Of course, a person can buy just about anything and anyone for the right price in Tokyo but can a person also buy happiness. It appears that some people in Tokyo believe that they can in fact buy happiness. Maybe they feel that if they buy enough expensive items they can attain some kind of happiness. Also, it appears that there is a focus on power as having the ability to give happiness. There is also the factor of working yourself to the bone which must cause many to feel unhappy.

The cultural values which were ingrained into my head are in direct conflict with such values as greed, power, and not expressing ones self openly and freely. With all the short comings my parents possessed they at least understood that money and power will not give a person happiness. So, as many in Tokyo case the all mighty quest for wealth they also live very empty lives devoid of true happiness.

 What can be done to address this often not talked about social ill in Tokyo? I honestly feel that a little love can go a long way. I love Tokyo and all the off beat things it offers. It may take the gaijin living in Tokyo to help many, but not all, Japanese living in the city to relax and understand what is really important in life. We are all human after all. A start for a cure to the unhappiness that many residents in Tokyo experience could be some random love. How about buying a beer at a bar for someone who do not know. Maybe smiling at a person on the train with a grim expression in their face. At least it would a start.

I hold no faith that random acts of kindness will be the cure all for the unhappiness felt by many people, gaijin and Japanese alike, living in Tokyo but it would be a state. Think about it for a minute. I am a greaser from West Virginia and I am willing to give it a go. Hell, it might be fun in the end. At the very least it would put a smile on your face. I enjoy feeling good and smiling and I am sure that most people would also agree. In short if people in Tokyo would spread a little love to each other there might be a few less unhappy people walking around.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Get the Gun Boy! It is Thanksgiving Time.

In the haze of holiday shopping and retail insanity American`s little November tradition is nothing more than a blip on the radar in Tokyo. Thanksgiving used to mean something a long time ago. People used to sit around the family dinner table, eat turkey, and talk about what they are thankful for. My family tried this when I was a lot younger but it always ended up in dad throwing a beer bottle at me, my mother throwing her plate at my dad, and my sister laughing her ass off while calling us all stupid. Those were the good old days indeed. Now, I am a full fledged adult living out my life in Tokyo. While no one will have a beer bottle thrown at them this year, I hope, I have been reflecting on past Thanksgivings and looking to the near future as to how I am going to celebrate this time honored tradition in Tokyo.

I have experienced some odd Thanksgivings in the past. For some reason Thanksgiving leads me down a road of ruin almost every year. A few of those past odd Thanksgivings will always stick out in my mind.

The most fun Thanksgiving I have had so far was the first one after my parents split. It was just dad and I trying to figure out what to do on a cold West Virginia day. We did manage to cook a turkey. Although, we cooked it a little too long and it was a little dry. We had a lot of good laughs talking about what we were not thankful for while eating the bird. After stuffing out faces we drank a few shots of Jack and walked into town. We ended up at some bar gambling on a few football games and getting drunk.

The other Thanksgiving that really sticks out on my mind was the year I found myself in a small apartment in St. Louis with two gals from India. They had no idea how to cook a turkey. The older one of the pair was hell bent on having a turkey for Thanksgiving. They look to me as if I was the expert. These two gals both had the ability to breath fire at a moments notice. I did not want to get burned from giving wrong directions as to how to cook a turkey. I called my grandmother and she walked them though the entire process. What was interesting about eating a turkey with these two gals was that they insisted on having curry soup and way too much wine along with the bird. It was a weird night if Hindu music, nakedness, wine drinking, and fuzzy memories.

So, this year I will have Thanksgiving in Tokyo for the first time. What the hell I am supposed to do? The Japanese have no tradition, as far as I am aware, of Thanksgiving. It seems that the holiday itself is only mentioned in English mags and news letters. After reading the Metropolis I have found that there are several places offering a Thanksgiving meal to us gaijin who desire some turkey with all the trimmings. After getting the thumbs up from the gal I have decided on a place called Beacon in the Omotesando area of Shibuya-ku. The gal will reserve us a spot tomorrow I assume. I hope we get a spot because for 8,500 yen I can enjoy a damn good Thanksgiving dinner in a nice restaurant.

This year`s Thanksgiving is looking to be 100% clear of any trouble or oddness. I say this now but I am sure that the god of chaos is watching me and plotting a proper punishment. I have faith that Thanksgiving is going to be fun and relaxing. I end with a question for everyone living in Japan. What are you planning to do for Thanksgiving?