I thought it would interesting to share…
Once I leave the house, I head to the elevator and go 15 floors down to the lobby. I’m greeted in the lobby by at least the front desk staff if not the doormen across the way – “ohayo gozaimasu” and some other phrase I’ve yet to figure out, despite hearing it every single time I go in or out the door. Oh well… eventually.
These days I leave the apartment out the back door because it leads to the less steep walk to the office – I guess I shouldn’t be taking the lazy way, but it’s warm outside and stuff. That walk takes me along a tree lined sidewalk next to the Spanish embassy walls, then along an only slightly busier street next to the competing (and newer) residential / office building. About 3/4s of the way along this section I usually see the white-gloved gentleman telling the taxi drivers whether or not they are needed in the driveway situated down the hill from him. He places his arms in a large cross to let them know to move on.
From here I take a right and approach the very busy street with an expressway running over the top of it. You see, they’ve got this space constraint thing, so a vast majority of their expressways are elevated, running directly over the busy surface streets. It makes reading maps pretty interesting. Depending on the exact place where I turned, I might pass the Saudi Arabian embassy. I also walk over a couple of rotating concrete pads that turn the cars around as they exit the robotic garage. On a few occasions I’ve been walking, blissfully lost in my music and not noticed a car coming from those garages. Oops.
Oh… who do I see along this walk? Plenty of other people doing the same thing as me. Men in their dress slacks, pressed shirts (quite often white) and about half of them with dark ties. Some of their shirts are long sleeved, others short. I’ve seen fewer men in coats lately, but they are still in the mix despite the temperatures and power saving measures. I never really thought the short-sleeved shirts looked particularly good… until I broke down and bought a couple for myself. It gets the job done – comfort with (some) class. The women are most often in business attire with skirts and heels. Yep – they are navigating the metro, sideways, etc. in heels. I’ve watched them stand in the middle of a wobbly train without holding on, perched on a high heel. Needless to say, they’ve got killer calves. A fair number of the people are carrying attache cases in one hand. I’m pretty confident they don’t have a heavy laptop in there… at least I hope they don’t because they’d wreck their shoulders!
Mixed in with the people walking are those on bicycles. Of course there are plenty of bike messengers rushing along, but they are mostly in the street. The people on bikes similar to Susan’s – baskets in front & back – are weaving between the street and the sidewalk as needed. It can be tough to walk with sound isolating headphones and have a bike sneak up behind you! Luckily I haven’t had any more difficulties with bikes since the 2nd week in Ginza.
So… I made it to the crosswalk under the expressway. From here I usually take a slightly quieter route down sort of an alley. It’s hard to call it an alley – there is a konbini and a half dozen restaurants plus a liquor store. At the same time, it just barely squeezes two lanes of traffic and the noise levels are considerably lower. For the first stretch we walk along the side of the road with some barriers protecting us from the cars, but after a while – when it changes to a one-way road – you’re just walking on the edge of the street. Through here I pass a parking lot that holds about 6 cars. You park and a blockade comes up behind your wheel. When it’s time to go, you pay the automated machine and the blockade lowers. The rate is phenomenally expensive – but I don’t quite remember exactly what it is. Maybe 1000Y for 25 minutes? That’s about $10. Maybe it’s not quite that bad, but I know it isn’t cheap. See why we don’t have a car?
Soon the street hangs a left. This area is a touch more residential for a block until turning back into office buildings. Here I often see people washing off their porch area, scrubbing it with a long brush, as their daily routine. Sometime there will be someone sweeping with a traditional broom (it looks like a long stick with lots of smaller sticks strapped to it – it’s straight out of the 19th century), getting up all the cigarette butts and whatnot. Somewhere along the route I usually pass the guys that do parking enforcement – they’ve got green uniforms with reflective vests. One carries a laptop in a rugged case. They are commonly older guys.
Depending on how early I woke up and got out, I might pass school children on their way. These are probably 6 or 7 year old kids in their uniforms (which includes the color of their backpack!) walking along the same streets as the rest of us… without their parents. It’s awesome the freedom children have here. They know their route and they follow it with their friends in small gaggles. In a few spots I’ve seen crossing guards to make sure there aren’t any problems with that. I sometimes wonder if some of them perhaps rode the train to get there – I know I’ve seen signs in the metro that seem to indicate that completely reasonable to believe.
Usually by the time I’ve gotten the office (a whole 15 – 20 minutes from home on a slow pace) I begin to see a lot of more tradesmen in uniforms. You’ve got the window washers, the delivery men, the janitorial staff, and the maintenance guys. Everyone is consistent… which, I suppose, is the definition of uniform. Each one of them takes pride in his appearance and work – just like all of the other people I passed along the way. Each of them is going to do his job today, albeit maybe without a lot of innovation, and he / she is going to go home knowing they did a good job.
As I enter the building the chorus of “ohayo gozaimasu” starts up again… although now it tends to be a little more mumbly or sing-song, with the stress in odd spots. For example, “ohayo gozaimasu” might only be audible as “massss”… sometimes that literally all someone says! The other phrase that is uttered often all day long is a variation of “otsukaresama deshita“… it too gets shortened in all sorts of ways. Shortening words / phrases is apparently a trend these days… but that’s a whole different discussion.
So… that’s my morning. The evening is generally the same, but in the dark. I’ll tell you about that another time.
I miss you – when do you get here?