For my 34th birthday weekend I treated myself to a three-day holiday.
Saturday night (after work) we went to dinner at Izumida with Yushi, Ken and Asami. We followed that up with karaoke. The live album will be forthcoming.
Sunday I did nothing but lie in bed all day watching football – I bought the NFL GamePass so I can watch any football game at any time I please. This has been a breathtaking development for me, but professional productivity is at an all time low.
We spent yesterday deep-cleaning the apartment and shoe-shopping. We will talk more about shoes in a little bit.
But first I wanna talk about disc golf.
I know, I know. You’re like, get over it all ready. But instead of disc golf I wanna spend some time talking about my train ride to Showa Kinen Park.
See, I finally figured out the route. Go to Shinjuku station and take the Ome route on the Chuo line and it goes all the way to Nishi-Tachikawa station, which is only a 20 minute walk from the disc course.
So this afternoon I boarded the Ome train and I was on my merry way. At least, until we reached Kichioji station, which was at the halfway point.
The train waited, and waited. The conductor started making announcements, and people started getting off. I wasn’t quite sure where I was, so I sat tight, figuring there was probably some malfunction and we would be on our way soon enough.
Forty minutes later, I was still sitting there. At this point I started getting irritated. The park closed at 5, and it was close to 3. I could still get in a round, but I was going to have to rush. And if I have to rush a round of disc golf, what’s the point?
Finally, with about 4 other people left on the car, the doors closed and the train departed, and travelled one whole stop. At this point everybody got off and I was left there at Mitaka station.
However, I did learn the cause of the delay. During that 2 minute jaunt the electronic sign above the door said, in English, that the delay was because of “passenger injury.”
While this could mean a number of things, what instantly popped into my mind was the specifically Japanese phenomenon of “train jumpers.”
These are people who commit suicide by jumping in front of trains. In Japan, this happens as many as 2,000 times a year. Crazy, I know.
Japan has the highest suicide rate of any developed country. In 2011, there were over 30,000 suicides.
Suicide doesn’t have the same stigma here as in the western world. Some even consider it an honorable way to die. The samurai would commit seppuku rather than be captured or dishonor their clan. In World War II, the kamikaze invented suicide bombing.
My point is, the Japanese have a fairly laissez faire attitude toward suicide and they really don’t see it as an issue.
However, they do have an issue when the trains are delayed. One suicide jumper can cost as much as $100,000 in delays. Thus, the Japanese government would really appreciate it if you would take your grand departure elsewhere.
Train jumping has become such a problem that they installed soothing blue lights in the Yamonote line in hopes of calming people down prior to the jump.
More severely, if someone commits suicide by train jumping, their next of kin have to foot the bill. Some families have had to pay as much as $65,000 in fines. Also, life insurance policies will not cover train jumping, even though it will cover other forms of suicide.
Lisa and I have been delayed by train jumpers on two occasions, and I really hope it wasn’t a train jumper today.
In the good news department, I shot a three under par and one of the seniors at the disc golf course clapped for my best drive of the day.
As I mentioned before I got all wrapped up in suicide, yesterday Lisa and I went shoe shopping at the underground mall at Yaesu.
I needed a new pair of black shoes for work. The soles came off my old pair. I have a nice pair of Steve Madsen shoes I don’t want to wear everyday, so I wanted to get a cheap pair that can get scuffed up a bit.
However, as I found out, they don’t have cheap shoes in Japan.
I couldn’t find anything below 120,000 yen (about $140). While I really don’t like paying more than $60 for shoes, I ended up buying a nice pair of Gore-Tex shoes from Madras for 160,000 yen. They were comfortable as hell, looked good, had non-slick soles, and their freakin’ Gore-Tex.
The lack of cheap shoes is a reflection of another aspect of Japanese culture – specifically the consumer culture.
See, Japanese people don’t believe in buying cheap products. Cheap means low quality. I recently read an article that Wal-Mart wants to make another attempt to breach the Japanese market. They tried about 15 years ago to varied success. The honchos in Arkansas learned the hard way that Japanese consumers do not buy cheap goods.
Wal-Mart is going to make another attempt since the economy in Japan is down, and there is a chance families might be more interested in budget items. Based on the shoe economy, I kind of doubt it.
Here is another anecdote to highlight the finicky Japanese consumers. I was talking to a lady who works as the quality control manager for a medical supplies company that does business globally. She said her customers in Japan have a 25 percent return rate while the rest of the countries return the supplies about 10 percent of the time.
She said sometimes the Japanese customers will return the product just if the package is damaged, even if the product itself is in perfectly good condition.
If you have ever dealt with a difficult Japanese customer, now you know why. They demand high quality products and high quality service.
ONE LAST THING – TOKYO STATION
When we did our shoe shopping, we also stopped by Tokyo station for lunch and to check out the
For as long as I have known, Tokyo station has been under construction. Just last week, the reconstructed dome was unveiled. So we checked it out. It was pretty cool.
Part of the renovation process was building a ginormous shopping area, which included two floors of restaurants.
Outside of the Yaesu central exit in the area known as First Avenue Tokyo Station is Ramen Street.
Ramen Street really isn’t a street, but it is a long hallway with eight different ramen restaurants, all run by famous ramen chefs.
Lisa and I finally ate lunch on Ramen Street yesterday.
It was pretty good.
The nice thing was that the price, while a little higher than average, wasn’t outrageous (950 yen for a bowl).
The noodles were handmade there in the restaurant and the pork was moist and had a smoky flavor. I almost thought that they had brought the pork fresh from a smoker, but I have no idea where you can smoke meat 30 feet below downtown Tokyo.
Anyway, here is a picture of the ramen we ate on Ramen Street.