I feel like I never quite ‘finished my say’ as they say here with regards to Japan and Tokyo. I liked it – that was my final assessment. I guess am a bit of a cultural elitist and I guess that a lot of the things that were taught to me when I was a stripling have been near-permanently ingrained. I am not as flexible as I thought I was and I accept that this is not such a great thing.
For instance, in China, where it is de rigeur to spit unwanted bits of food out onto the floor, I had trouble accepting this and there was no way I was going to participate. Compare this with the attitude of a colleague of mine, that being more along the lines of ‘cool!’ and got right into it.
For these kind of reasons Japan was more fitting to my way of being. Example: there, the WCs have the same amount of water down the bottom there to bomb into as you would find in a western country. Here in Korea there is often very little there, leaving one’s leavings high and dry—and my nose does not like. It’s just the way things are here. Sit-down toilets are overtaking squat-toilets but the lack of a port to “see one’s friends off at the port” with remains. I have heard that in times previous there was some need to get down in there afterward and examine the droppings to make sure you didn’t have worms but I think this era has passed.
And now I get to the point I am to make.
This is the pullquote. Things often stay the way they are for no other real reason than that’s the way things have been.
If a taxi driver puts his car in neutral and pushes it one spot forward up the rank rather than turning the ignition and touching the accelerator – then this is his habit and it will probably stay unless someone or something very persuasive comes along to change it.
The one last thing about Japan and here that I only really became aware of after getting back here was how how slaved to the car Seoul is.
This is something I find really interesting. According to wikipedia (so make of it what you will) :
1 Tokyo/Yokohama Japan 31,112,000 7,200
3 Seoul/Incheon South Korea 22,447,000 2,300 (ref)
I’m not about to get a calculator out but I can see that the density ratio is higher in Seoul. Tokyo takes up more space but they are a long way short of over double the pop. of Seoul.
Then comes the real kicker—with Tokyo being earthquake prone, a lot of the residential buildings are only two or three stories high. There are some high-rises but it didn’t look like the way things are here. They’re everywhere here.
When I first got to this city and had a go of the subway I got to thinking that the public transport here was awesome. Compared to Melbourne, I guess it is. Here, it is fairly adequate but then it needs to be with so many people travelling around to and from work. The wheels of industry would fall off if the subway didn’t run. I would say that the subway/train system is equal to Tokyo’s, but on top of it in Seoul there’s a much more extensive mesh of roads. There’s a lot more buses, taxis, motorbike, little trucks and single people in cars. I remember from the enviro activist days that it’s not just road’s we’re talking about when cars eat a city, it’s also all the parking and all the business serving cars. Long story short: Tokyo – more living space, Seoul – more car space.
There’s a lot more trees in Tokyo. It’s warmer. The old people are meeker, the way they should be.