It's the hub, the nexus, the center of urban life here - the friendly neighborhood train station in Tokyo.
Everybody's either trying to get to the train station or heading away from one. Most crowds will gravitate in this general direction, sound advice if you ever get really lost. Home, work, or a social event's given location are always mentioned with its proximity to a station.
It is in this setting that you are in search of a peaceful place to rest.
Dodging the wave of recent arrivals, you finally secure one of the precious few benches sprinkled around the train hub. You grab a seat just in time to start drinking your no-ice, half sweetened, oolong flavored tapioca tea. The fresh cup of it is still a bit warm too.
A note of caution. 🙏
Prepare to carry the plastic (note not PET plastic) remains of your delicious drink for some time, potentially back home. Trash-in-hand requires a reasonably thorough investigation around any train station for a designated "non-burnables" trash can. Alternatively, a search for the nearest convenience store with the necessary plastic rubbish receptacle will suffice.
Shortly into this mission, an astute detective will notice the stray Starbucks cup jammed into a round trash can lid. Upon further inspection, you will find that trash can is (intentionally) too small for this pre-owned grande frappuccino container. Subsequently, the sleuth may be able to decode the stickers that say PET plastic on the can. No mention of Starbucks.
These particular, limited-use trash cans are nearly always nestled next to the ubiquitous and convenient drink vending machines. For some reason, it's not hard to find these trash cans. "Why don't I just do a quick Starbucks stash in this handy trash can?"
Please don't be that guy. Improper plastic placement is a standard error. Perpetrated by the potentially lazy, possibly intoxicated, or even unscrupulous urbanite, this blunder is legion. Do not be misled, my friend, into perpetuating this problem.
You will occasionally catch people putting things that are not PET plastic into a PET-plastic-and-aluminum-can-only container for recycling. You will also periodically need to pray for them mid-mistake. And also offer a quick prayer for the poor soul has to sort out that trash bag somewhere down the line.
With the notable exception of a countryside railway stop, stations are also the center of all things restaurant and retail-related. You can bet it is a delicious and convenient way to end the day or fill up a Saturday.
Unfortunately, all things pachinko-related circle the average station as well — this is the dark side. Don't let the animated and childlike girly pictures fool you; no children allowed inside these buildings. They are anime-inspired advertisements for slot machines.
Pachinko is the pinball-meets-Plinko gambling method of choice in Japan. It comes with the usual and often negative family-destroying aspects of gambling, plus extra noise and cigarette smoke inside the building. The buildings are generally peculiar and significant to draw attention, not entirely uninviting, really.
The dark side of the station also offers some powers that some might consider to be unnatural. Serious pachinko fans gain the ability to wait in long lines early in the morning. This ritual, practiced by many, is all to win the coveted first entry into the pachinko parlor. Getting on the lucky machine first thing is apparently key to success. I had no idea what these people were lining up for when I first came to Japan. The pachinko queues are a common occurrence at the larger stations, and even smaller ones on the weekends.
Disregarding the brightly colored facade of the pachinko parlor, you move on.
Finally, you locate that discrete rubbish bin by the ticket gate of your station. Celebrating the accomplishment, you discard the leftovers of your delicious brewed tea and chewy tapioca bubble beverage.
Surrounded by bustle and commerce, you manage to hear a still small voice.
It is the prompting of the Holy Spirit, asking you to reach out to someone with the love of God and share the gospel. Now there's quite another adventure for you!
Next time, and to be continued… 😄
Where are some peculiar things you've noticed about where you live and the people there? Have you been to Japan and experienced this before? Let us know in the comments below!