Tokyo Tantrums

Japan ~ Tokyo – 2015

Tokyo has a big city sort of reputation to it, an air of grandeur accompanied with a sense of mystery somewhere within the non-stop luminous glare of the lights and the 24/7 rush…

So many films have painted a picture that has made an impression on me, and because of this it was high on the list of places I wanted to see…so when I realised I had a long weekend coming up I didn’t hesitate and booked it up straight away! Just a couple of hours to get from my home in Korea to the unknown world beyond – armed with nothing but a friend’s recommendations (which proved invaluable) and a feeling I was soon to be in my very own Lost in Translation remake…

Lost Trans GIF

Sidenote: when travelling you really do need to think long and hard about who you will actually travel with. Well maybe not too thorough – nothing too ridiculous, but at the very least you need to see a clean bill of health (both physical and mental), a criminal background check, and dental records. Also check their voice and typical conversation topics as otherwise you may be locked in with the most boring groaner on the planet – which is never going to be fun. With this particular adventure I was meaning to go alone originally, and then at the last minute a lady friend of mine tagged along…which brought some erm, shall we say – complications? 

Anyway I mean this sincerely when I say that Tokyo is a marvel. So much to see and do, a far cry from the more reserved and traditional parts of Japan I had visited earlier in the year.  But oddly I found it manages to retain a fantastic balance between the two often conflicting sides; you see one second I’d be staring up at a 60 foot tall science fiction juggernaut in the form of the powerful Gundam, the next I was wearing a traditional yukata and relaxing in an onsen…then I’d blink and be back to the mad rush of the Shibuya scramble crossing! I was completely in my element, roving around searching for the weird and wonderful, straining my neck to try and see as much as I possibly could…it was everything I had dreamed about for so long, and so much more…

Shibuya GIF

But yeah: the ghost at the feast…the wasp at the picnic…the drunk and slightly creepy uncle at the family reunion. Hmm, that last one was a bit weird, but you get my point – this is the part of the story where I say what didn’t go so smoothly, and most of it had to do with my travel companion: hence my warning earlier. You see I try my utmost to remain as friendly and light hearted as possible during trips, as from experience I understand that it can be a pretty stressful period if you let the small things seep in and truly affect you…if you do that suddenly the foul smell of a certain street, the incessant honking of horns on the road, or perhaps even your friend’s breathing can have you suddenly enraged beyond all comprehension: like smashing an axe into a locked door screaming “heeeeere’s Johnny!”  sort of level rage. So it’s best to take a deep breath instead, and just let most hiccups roll off your back…

However, my lady friend didn’t share this ethos…which meant that any small thing became the reason for a monumental day-ruining mood. Juxtapose that dark rain cloud along with my attempted cheery sense of humour and you had quite a pairing; something like if Voldemort was to meet one of the Teletubbies. Well actually that’s unfair (to he who must not be named): it would only be like that if Voldemort had the emotional range to both grimace and groan about public transport, and literally burst into tears about the levels of salt in Japanese food…as it stands I don’t think he is quite on her level yet.

I can understand the frustration though, Tokyo is huge and it’s far too easy to become dazed and confused by the sprawling subway system: which I honestly think was designed by someone throwing spaghetti at the wall, and saying: “that’ll do just fine.” We took many wrong turns during our days there, and the hours were long and well travelled…but I don’t see how it helps remaining silent or dragging your feet along as if you are a pathetically non-threatening zombie, or almost defunct robot:

Robot GIF

There is an answer to such problems though, and one which I will gladly share with all of you…and that is; beer. Yes, you heard it here first! The golden elixir is the perfect remedy to all sorts of ailments, including the frustration you may feel when a friend (or something more) is becoming more than you can bear. Thankfully there was a so-called “English pub” just off a side street near to the Shibuya crossing…where for three times the normal price I could enjoy beer, ales, and all that good stuff as if I was back amongst the smoke and laughing guffaws of my homeland…“Wait, it’s how much?! Jesus tap-dancing Christ!? It’s not worth that!”

But yeah, that’s how things go! Ups and downs, smiles and frowns…you have to take the good with the bad, and try to carve out memories that will last: and despite all the issues we were still able to do that…pretty much.

However I must now look for an AA meeting in South Korea: so yeah, wish me luck. 

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Ladies First…or Ladies Last?

The days of the classic traditional Gentleman are gone – or at least if they’re not then they are effectively dinosaurs dying off one by one…slowly becoming extinct as metaphorical asteroids come smashing towards the ground in a fiery mess. You see as gender roles and attitudes shift, so does the old framework under which the Gentleman etiquette  once operated.

Now personally I like to treat everyone with kindness and respect – well you know; most of the time (aka…if I’ve had coffee) but I am not sure whether this makes me a Gentleman, or just a gentle man. The jury is out on that one…I must admit I’m still a little confused…

Handshake Hug GIF

But whatever the verdict – I have found this issue on my mind a lot recently, largely thanks to something coming up in my kindergarten class which I didn’t quite expect. You see during “snack time” there is a small window in which I have to try and cram all the various rules around politeness, manners, and etiquette…into six year olds…who don’t even speak English…and would much rather have a discussion about which animal does the biggest poops. Naturally it’s a tough learning curve, and can be quite a challenge, especially as such rules differ from country to country, and from culture to culture…

Ah, and if you’re curious about the aforementioned poo-size rankings, they assure me it goes; 1.Elephant, 2.Giraffe, 3.Horse.

But this time around as the two boisterous boys madly scrabbled in a rush to grab the biggest banana I found myself commanding: “ah-ah-ahhh! Ladies first!” in some kind of involuntary reflex. To which they spun around, and queried “why?” 

I was a little lost for words…after all, I didn’t want to instruct them that girls are weaker, or need help because they’re hands are just for show, or whatever else…that would be way off, so…erm…errrr…I wracked my brain frenetically for something usable – but it was just like a submarine radar…beep-beep-beep, but picking up absolutely nothing.

“You should be a gentleman!”  I announced suddenly in a (possibly) unsure tone to which the two young boys stared back in confusion. This was what was always said to me as a kid, and it makes sense…I mean who doesn’t want to be seen as a gentleman?! It’s the epitome of class, and sophistication!

Classy GIF

Was that the right thing to say? It’s hard to know these days…you have to be extra careful, because every little thing offends every little person. And yeah,  I’m probably reinforcing gender stereotypes, and all that jazz…

But my wiring is of a rather traditional nature I suppose, at least when you consider the attitudes of other people who are in the 20s age group along with me; I remember my Ps & Qs (no one says that anymore, do they?), I hold the door open for people, pay for dates/meetings that I suggested, and always urinate on the toilet seat. Well you know, no one’s perfect. 

But yeah help me out  – what do you think? Do ladies go first?

Manners GIF

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