Thursday, August 14, 2008

Gas and Global Warming

I was a little late in returning home last night because I had coffee with a civil servant. He's an interesting guy usually and talking to him is sometimes educational. For example, last night he explained that it is now a season called Obon and filled me in on the details of what it is. He does me the same favor every year for every holiday. Don't know if he does this favor for me because I am a non-Japanese who could not be expected to know such things no matter how long I live here, or if it is because I am of the ignorant peasant class and not a bureaucrat.

Anyway, I got on a relatively empty train home and stood near the door so that I could make a transfer a few stations later without being pushed, shoved, and trampled very much. I am fast enough that I can move through the doors and be out of the way before the main mob tries to rush out all at the same time.

I was again first in line at my transfer station and the train soon arrived with a number of empty seats. Even though I was first in line this time, I did not rush through the doors like a man with his ass on fire in order to get a seat while pretending that I didn't really want one. I leave that sort of thing to the children as it seems un-adult to do it. I have not yet fully adapted to the unique train riding culture.

A few minutes after the train departed, I smelled a rather sulfurous odor. At first I thought it was the breath of a guy who had moved closer to me to talk to his girlfriend, but his mouth was not pointed in my direction. Another thought entered my mind. I looked around to see if former Prime Minister Abe was on the train. I did not see him, so I had to assume that it was some other person with bowel trouble.

Then I started to worry as I often do when this happens. Was it me? After all, I am certain that one could find people---often foreigners---who would claim that Japanese don't fart and even if they did it wouldn't smell bad. You know, someone like the New York Times fashion section reporter who a few years ago wrote an article in which he claimed that the Japanese have "almost no body odor."

I felt somewhat relieved to see another Westerner on the train who could also serve as a suspect in the silent fart attack. Everyone on board was acting innocent and pretending that nothing was wrong, so the guilty person could not be determined.

While enjoying this fun-filled sardine can trip home, I got to thinking about gases and global warming and Japan's leadership in fighting it. Earlier that afternoon I had walked through Denenchofu and was able to keep cool on a very hot day just by standing in front of the open doors of Magi (26 August: oops! Actual name is Maggy.) as they had their AC blowing full blast. A few other shops were doing the same. It used to be even more popular in many areas of Tokyo and one could always enjoy a refreshing breeze standing in front of a shop with its doors wide open and the air conditioning blowing out into the street.

Now this is the way to cool down the earth and save the polar bear. Forget the closing of 24-hour 7-11s at night. More aggressive action is needed. And besides, it's a tradition. Stores in Tokyo have been cooling the sidewalk and planet for decades with their air conditioners. It's all part of the unique relationship with, and respect for, nature.

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