The blog of Tokyo based photographer and photojournalist, Damon Coulter

Tokyo`s mean streets

I saw a fight the other day while I was riding the train to work. Nothing big just an stumble that went un-apologized thus causing the stumbled upon to complain and the stumbler to shout and curse back and threaten violence by kicking the walls of the carriage around the man and swinging his sharp-edge briefcase at the seat where he was sitting. He did not, of course, actually connect his briefcase or feet with the man he had stumbled against because then that would have been a real fight and most Japanese people avoid those.

A friend of mine observed that there is no accountabilty here: people do not react to aggression with aggression. Certainly the man on the train did not and it made the briefcase swinger bolder. In Britain you`d have kept your mouth shut because the chances of the person you attacked attacking you back with more violence is greater. Bullying of people younger and less important in your work or social arena is almost normal here. The briefcase swinger was older and that gave him some power; the rest of the train turned up their ipods and pretended it wasn`t happening, and he blustered on until the other guy left. I just couldn`t have imagined that happening in Britain, either the man who had been stumbled upon would have lamped the briefcase man, or some other person on the train would have interjected and tried to work out the rights and wrongs and if, upon finding the wrongs unrepentant, would have just as likely taken on the job of punishing him themselves.

Now if this is a good thing or not I do not know. It seems fairer but it can make British cities a bit of a minefield of manners and just a little dangerous. I have walked around Glasgow without looking anyone in the eye because offence can be taken easily by some with power. And I have stood my ground in London with those that wanted to cause me offence for no reason. It was scary too but there are rules to this. Tokyo is not scary; indeed this is a very safe city without the overt anger and excess of large cities in other countries a few fights on the train not withstanding.

But it is getting less safe apparently. Not that I think there is any need for the Guardian Angels to make an appearence just yet as they are here in this photo taken in Shibuya`s Centre Gai. If indeed there is a need for them anywhere at anytime. The Japanese ones especially seem to have more of that dressing-up, “I`m so macho” powertrip than the actually quite risky public service carried out by the original group in New York.  I mean it`s Tokyo nothing ever happens so basically they just like wearing berets!

Gone midnight and my wife doesn`t want me typing anymore, so got to go.

Later

Damon

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2 responses

  1. Andy

    Ah, yes. The modern day Zorro. Although the men on the right remind me more of the 1981 film version………..

    October 31, 2008 at 5:17 pm

  2. camerasian

    Just another group to belong to and another costume to don.

    November 27, 2008 at 8:40 am

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