Friday, March 10, 2006

Some Not So Safe Things in Japan

Yes, even though Japan is "the safest country in the world," there are a few things that in my opinion---admittedly as a foreigner who cannot possibly understand Japan---that are less that perfectly safe.
For example:

  • People don't watch where they are going, whether walking or riding a bicycle. Many are reading email or playing games on their cell phones. Some are reading books or newspapers, emailing, riding with an umbrella directly in front of their face, looking behind or to the side of them while on a bike. Others have a finger up to the knuckles in a nostril.

  • Unwrapped food is displayed without sneeze guards or any protection from germs, viruses, children playing with it etc. Often I see delicious looking freshly baked bread, or freshly cooked tempura or other foods on display in area of heavy traffic, where people with very contagious viruses are coughing and sneezing openly. I once watched a young 3-4 year old boy handle almost all the tempura on display at the Tokyu grocery store at Kajigaya station. His mother stood there and watched and said not a word. I donno, this seems to be a health hazard. Yes, I know that the real risks are foreigners spreading AIDS etc.

  • People riding in trains seems to forget to cover their mouths when sneezing or coughing. Japanese consider this very rude, but it is common on trains. Of course even worse is when someone lets loose with a HUGE, LOUD, FULL VOLUME sneeze which actually hurts one's ears. This high decibel sneeze, in addition to being extraordinarily rude and germ spreading, probably causes hearing loss.

  • There seem to be no rules to follow on which side of the road one uses on a bike. People here tend to ride down the middle or pick and choose a side at random. Seems a bit dangerous, that's why Japanese law requires people to stay to the left, the same as driving. However, the law is not enforced.

  • Riding a bicycle on a crowded sidewalk seems slightly risky. More so when you have a finger up to the knuckle in your left nostril and are typing an e-mail while wearing headphones and listening to Puffy's latest.

  • Rudely pushing people, on trains and elsewhere, when there is no conceivable need seems a bit dangerous as well as uncivilized. You could anger some dangerous, evil foreigner. Well, I can't complain, the Chinese do that too.

  • Crossing the road as soon as the walk signal turns green without bothering to check and see if traffic has stopped could potentially cause some sort of problem.

  • Trucks with uncovered loads: rocks, dirt, scrap iron, or big hunks of cement secured by a strap---if anything---might possibly be risky if the truck hits a bump, or has an accident or something similar and the unsecured load flies off and hits someone. May I suggest that the fine Japanese police perhaps actually make some sort of proactive law enforcement effort to deter this? I am sure it is illegal. If a foreign company operated vehicles like that in Japan, wouldn't the police be just a bit more aggressive? Well, naturally, but that is because foreigners are more dangerous and much more likely to be criminals anyway.

  • The yakuza sometimes park in no parking zones within sight of cops. I saw them a few weeks ago doing that on a Sunday morning in front of Ann Millers in Akasakamitsuke. Now I realize that the yakuza very honorable criminal thugs---sorry delete that---but there must be some sort of reason that that is a no parking zone. Perhaps though the police officer who was nearby was thinking of safety---his--when he ignored it.

  • Large, razor sharp butcher knives are freely and openly sold anywhere. It seems a huge percentage of murders and assaults are committed with these. The question is, what does anyone need with such big, sharp knives when a smaller, duller knife could be used in the home. For big butchering jobs. one could go to a professional, licensed butcher. One city in Japan started restricting the sale of knives over a certain size---maybe 10cm as I recall---because of criminal misuse of these assault knives. There is no Second Amendment in Japan, so there would be no constitutional problem with banning them outright. As far as collecting them goes, it should be simple as the Japanese traditionally accept this type of activity. Hideyoshi did it hundreds of years ago to keep the peasants and similar troublemakers in their place. Of course, I am aware that in the US more people are killed with firearms so there is a difference. I suspect you are deader if you are shot than if you are stabbed. Everything is different in Japan. (Note: This is sarcasm. I ain't for banning kitchen knives.)

  • Usually, one considers a crosswalk with a green crossing signal to be a place where cars shouldn't enter. However, in Japan, cars can and do turn into crosswalks when the pedestrian light is green. I don't know if this is legal since I have seen cops stop (!!!!!!!!) a person for doing it---and the person appeared not to be a foreigner---and I have seen the more common reaction of them paying it no mind. Go to Akasakamitsuke near the Goldman Sachs IT building (I forget the name, it houses Oak apartments too) and you can watch this happen and the law enforcement professional sit on his behind and do nothing.

  • People on bicycles in general. They are simply dangerous.

These are just a few for today. I will add more as I have time. I must however state that I am in no way complaining or criticizing. Every other country is probably worse. I will even put up some good points---of which there are zillions---to counter balance these later.

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