Densha no Hito (The Train People)

Densha no Hito (The Train People)

As most of the people reading this blog know, I’ve been in Japan a looong time. I’ve been here 14 years. My first 5 years, I was a bona fide, 100-percent-American. I have started to change. I still do many things that are American but Japanese customs are slowly creeping into my daily life.

I no longer eat salads with a fork – ever. I don’t acknowledge thank you’s as I leave a store (the Japanese way) and if someone steps on the back of my shoe, I don’t get upset or expect an apology; I just keep walking. Christmas is just another day and I map out my picnic days when the days get warmer and Cherry Blossom season nears. I feel naked without my man bag and I always have my name cards handy even on my days off.
So…what does that have to do with “train people”? Japan is a culture that follows the rules. No one polices Japanese – it is self policed. You can’t just walk into a park and play with kids – you have to recognise and invited to play. You can’t cross the street when the light is red (jay walking) without feeling the tsk tsk feeling of the Japanese eyes glancing unapprovingly.

I spend a lot of time and money on my clothes. My suits and shirts are all custom-made by fine tailors and department stores. My shoes are bought in the USA and my pants are cuffed perfectly every year by my mother-in-law. I don’t have socks with holes in them anymore (for fear of taking off my shoes and being seen with holy socks. I don’t wear t-shirts with logos anymore (unless I’m cycling).

If you were to look at me; you wouldn’t know I cared about my fashion. The train people on the other hand – notice everything. I dress for them. When I wake up in the wee hours of the morning, I open the closet and think “What would the Train People think ?” {WWTPT)

Last year, I wore a pair of mismatched shoes (same colour mind you). I sat on the train and people looked at me as if I were homeless. I have a winter coat this year I wear unbuttoned for fear they will discover the seams holding the buttons have come unraveled. If I button the fall jacket up, it will look as if my weight was busting the jacket wide open. TSK TSK I would feel. No eating a full mean on a regular train. The book should be small. The backpack should be on me knees when sitting. I should face the door when the train is crowded. Don’t play music too loud on my ear phones. Don’t talk in the morning. Are these rules posted? NO. How do I know? By osmosis. The train people know hence…I know.

I dress every morning for the train people hoping for their approval. I cringe at night when I iron my shirt of the next morning wondering if they really really do know I cannot iron my cuffs correctly. The train people are omnipotent. I know because…well I just do.

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