Thursday, 4 September 2008

All the lonely people... where do they all come from?

When I took this picture, I was standing next to the biggest station in the world in Shinjuku/Tokyo. If you are in Shinjuku during rush hour, you can't help but wonder: 
These millions of people... are they happy? 
Does it make them happy to get pushed into subways by men wearing white gloves till their faces are squished against the glass? 
Are they content to sleep in-between train stops because they don't get enough sleep at night? 
Was it a wish dear to their heart to see blinking neon ads and shiny, colourful banners everywhere so they need to go to parks sometimes just to wind down?
Are they happy?
I don't have a definite answer to that, but as far as I could guess, they are, as a people, more content than German folk or Americans. It is hard to describe, but in my experience, Japanese people live more compartmentalized and, thereby, aren't as prone to feeling lonely. Loneliness is one of the main factors of being unhappy, so if you are surrounded by either family, or work mates, or even millions of people in the train station, it might make them feel as a part of something bigger (?).

The people I met there were unusually content. If they worked as a waitress or in a store, they didn't look at bankers jealously, but the were as proud as they should be. This was a very new experience for me, as in Europe the people are always looking to others for appoval, better jobs, to their neighbours, friends etc. Who earns how much, who has how much power... it isn't as obvious in Japan and if there are discrepancies, they are dealt with in a more dignified way.

I think beyond these compartmentalizations and similarities, they strive for something to set them apart (like identical twins). They flock to strange TV shows, they watch strange (!!!) soap operas, they might even be interested in unusual sexual fetishes. They are a bit bottled up and held back, but they are among the friendliest people I have ever met, when you get to know them a little bit. I made great friends there and they welcomed us into their homes and treated the two big white guys like family.

Personally, I have never felt more alone than when I looked at these millions of people in Shinjuku station. At 6'4", I towered over them and my hair is much lighter... It was like a sea of black hair around me. Black hair and black suits...

I loved it in Japan and I will tell you more about it, but I could/would never live there. Visit again? Of course, when's the next flight :)

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