Metropolis Magazine
Issue #805 - Friday, Aug 28th, 2009
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Past Issues
804: Drama Scene
803: Heads, Tails & Snake Eyes
801: A Legacy of Emotion
800: Through the Monocle
799: Fighting spirit
798: Taking the Stares
796: Friends Don't Let Friends Become Salarymen
795: Fuzzy Democracy
794: Hung Jury
792: Highway to Hell
791: The Cartography of Cyberspace
790: Train Talk
789: A Confessions of a Teenager in Kimono
787: A Downloaded Question
786: Counterculture Shock
785: The Good Sensei
783: Me, Charisma Woman?
782: Stumbling Block
781: Paradise Lost
779: Half and Half
778: Road Rage
777: Dumb Luck
775: The M-List
774: Compatriotic Spirit
773: The Naked Truth
770-71: It Ain't Easy Being Green
769: 'Twas the Night Before Christmas in Japan
768: Japanese Lessons
766: Bad Credit
765: Chew on this
764: Red faced
763: Down and Out in Tokyo
761: Kicking the bucket
760: Thumbing It
759: Fixing the System
757: Smoke rings
756: Stalking the Predators
755: Banding Together
753: No Competition
752: Sex and This City
751: Let's Shogi
750: The Yasukuni Follies
748: Loud and Clear
747: I'll be back
746: Raiders of the lost SMAP
744: Magical Mystery Tour
743: Murder in Lotus Land
742: Stereotypes 'R' Us
740: The Mother of all Mothers
739: Crimes of Fashion
738: The Hafu Dad Brigade
737: The Green Team
736: Fight Club
735: The Paper Chase
734: The Wind-Up Writer Chronicle
733: Food For Thought?
732: Home and Away
731: The 2008 Nazi Olympics
730: The Two-Wheel Revolution
729: Gimme a Break
728: Power Play
727: Dying for a doctor
726: Footloose Revisited
725: Little Fish, Bigger Pond
724: Japan's Peace Monster
723: Language Abuse
722: Scumbusters "R" Us
721: First Action Hiro
720: The Return of Asashoryu
718-719: A Time to Give
717: My Homelessness Dilemma
716: The 30 Percent Solution
715: Past Imperfect
714: Killing the Kimono
713: The trouble with Tibbets
712: Surfing the Shinto-net
711: Falling Stars
710: Macho Man
709: Bad Impressions
708: Bloodsport
707: Our Last Word
706: Anonymocracy
705: The Air Up There
704: Read the Signs
703: The sky should not be the limit
702: My Year Zero Proposal
701: The Joys of Freeganism
700: Prada for the People
699: The Parasite Country
698: Washed up in Tokyo
697: Birthing's Not for Babies
696: On the Handlebars of a Dilemma
695: My So-Called Poverty
694: Get Out the Vote
693: The Ishihara Mystery
691: Let it Flow
690: Caf Culture
689: Oyaji Fashionistas
688: The Democracy of the Dysfunctional
687: Polite Disregard
686: Venting on Climate Change
685: Silent No Longer
684: To protect and serve?
683: Save the Sanshin building!
682: In the Realm of the Pond God
681: The Open Society and Its Enemies
680: Five-Ring Circus
679: Topic of Cancer
678: Pet Peeves
677: Why I am Banned in Japan
676: A long way to the top
675: Euro-vision
674: Child's play
673: Why I did it
672: I Love Japan
671: Running Crazy
670: Planet Apology
669: A peek behind the curtain
668: Opening Up
666: Pitching a fit
665: All wrapped up
664: Yule Rules
663: Field of Dreams
662: Save Lives, not Face
661: Why Do I Buy a Ticket?
660: Dying for a Nap
659: We, the jury
658: Grain of truth
657: Remembering The Maverick
656: A Rose by any Other Name
655: Heir today, gone tomorrow
654: Manhandled on the Metro
653: The bodyguards of the road
652: Separate but equal
651: Going for the gold
650: Being Audrey Hepburn
649: Not Sitting Pretty
648: Get Smart
647: Through foreign eyes
646: A failing grade in cute
644: Club Lands
643: Sayonara, Hide
642: The JET SET
641: What, me worry?
640: The Da Vinci Load
639: Making Waves
638: Final Cut
637: Resave the whales
636: Soccer Silliness
635: I, Smoker
634: The Ultimate Loss
633: Shoot the Messengers
632: The second sex
631: A Maverick Moves On
630: The curse of Baron Mitsui
629: Waiting for Heidi
628: Memoirs of a fake celebrant
627: Take it Outside
626: Wa? What wa?
625: A well-drawn life
624: St. Patrick the abducted
623: Bend over
622: The (Un)Late show
621: Oil spill
620: Ice Follies
619: Pride Goeth
618: Lost roles
617: Saying it with Cookies
616: Wrestling with foreigners
614-615: Blank Pages
613: Fretting Over Freeters
612: Farewell, Sensei
611: Sympathy for the wild ones
610: Back in Black
609: Out of many, one
608: Youth culture
607: The Russians are coming!
606: Meddle Detector
605: Tokyo, Mon amour
604: The Wailing Wall
603: Getting Abreast of Cancer
602: Willing Ally
601: New war,same story
600: The Big Chill
599: The Gray Zone
598: Jail break
597: Extremely Lost in Translation
596: Wounded Despot
595: History Lessons
594: Valhalla of the Imperial Army
592: Culture crash
591: Complaints Department
590: What lies beneath
589: Strange Games
588: Junk Science
587: The day the invaders came
586: The Test that Drove Me Crazy
585: Smile and say “lesbian”
584: Keep Article 9
583: The Great Divide
582: An ad for all seasons
581: Killing the Golden Goose
580: The other half
579: Give me back my bye-bye
578: Araki in Focus
577: Head out on the Highway
576: The hate that won't go away
575: Here's the beef
574: Yukking it up
573: Squatter’s rights and wrongs
572: The Trouble with Yokoso
571: Fire from the sky
570: Invasion of the gairaigo
569: Good company
568: Find Out What it Means To Me
567: Field of schemes
566: In the Name of Justice
565: Winner or Loser?
564: Staying Foreign
563: The Scare after Tomorrow
561-562: The Spirit of Things
560: War for remembrance
559: Storm damage
558: The Meaning of Godzilla
557: Who’s left to listen?
556: Paying respects
555: Gender Trouble
554: Coming clean at last
553: Go our own way
552: Hits of yesteryear
551: Heir apparel
550: Personal Reflections
549: Nuclear Reactions
548: Article of faith
547: Martyrs for the firm
546: A different anniversary
545: We, the jury
544: Wrongs & rights
543: Moore or less
542: Fair games
541: Developmentally challenged
The Last Word
By Julian Ryall

Road Rage
Japan is a land of safe drivers—except when it’s not

Julian Ryall is the Japan correspondent for The Daily Telegraph

For the second time in the last 12 months, there are burned-out candles and bunches of wilting flowers beside the busy road crossing that I take to get to my train station every morning.

The first sad little collection of mementos included a young boy’s baseball team shirt, complete with his name across the shoulders, and a Pokemon toy. This time, a soccer shirt has been left pinned to the railing, along with a bottle of Coca-Cola and a bar of chocolate. The boy’s teammates have signed a photograph and taped it to a nearby lamp post.

I didn’t witness either of these accidents, but by taking my own life in my hands on this very same pedestrian crossing, it is a pretty safe bet that these two boys died when a motorist tried to jump one red light too many.

I have driven in some of the world’s busiest cities—including my native and deeply unforgiving London—and my impression of Japanese drivers is that they are more tolerant towards others and respectful of the rules of the road than elsewhere. There is almost always a smile and a “No, after you” indication when two cars get in each other’s way; I have seen very few disagreements over parking spaces; the use of hand gestures involving less than two fingers is unheard of. The exception to the rule is when it comes to pedestrians and running red lights.

The road I cross is a busy one, with four lanes passing to and fro from Yokohama’s docks, and a gas station on one corner. The through-traffic ranges from huge articulated trucks carrying shipping containers to light vans, box cars and motorcycles. A fairly typical cross-section of vehicles using just another one of Japan’s urban roads.

And, as I’m sure is the case at road crossings across the country, there is always someone who thinks that if they put their foot down as they’re coming up to lights that are already turning red, it will all work out fine. Evidence on the pathway proves otherwise.

As commuters, kids and mothers on bicycles chance their lives on the pedestrian crossing, Japan’s finest can be relied on to be leaning on a baton outside their koban, beside the station entrance and not more than 100 meters away.

It strikes me as ironic that a sign prominently displayed in the window gives the latest crime statistics for the neighborhood. No cases of burglary, muggings or bag-snatching around here all week. Never mind the carnage going on just round the corner.
Emi Yokoyama

(I should point out that I cannot actually name the station in this article, as those helpful boys in blue who loiter outside are diligently tracking down a wallet that I reported lost to them about three months ago. Not that I expect to ever hear anything more about progress in their investigations.)
Taxi drivers get a fairly bad rap in this country, but I’d have to say that they are not the worst offenders in this situation. The guys behind the wheel of the huge trucks are far worse, perhaps assuming—correctly—that no one on foot or a bicycle is going to tangle with an 18 wheeler. But the pedestrian blindness affects drivers across the spectrum.

I already had one foot on the black-and-white lines the other morning when an elderly lady on a pink scooter barreled up the inside lane—passing cars that had already come to a halt at the red light—and nearly took my leg off. Shouting at her rapidly diminishing figure had absolutely no effect, and it didn’t even make me feel much better, either. I know the same thing is likely to happen again tomorrow.

Which brings me to the futility of the whole thing.

Less than 100 meters down the road, there is another light that’s turning red. Another 100 meters after that, there’s another one. Bit further down... yeah, you guessed it.

This is a busy thoroughfare with lots of intersections. Anyone who jumps this light is going to have to stop anyway just a little way down the street. As my own road rage rises, I feel like standing in the middle of traffic and asking these inconsiderate drivers if it’s worth taking a life to go another 100 meters.

But I know I’d probably be run down before I got the words out.

Got something to say about this article? Send a letter to the editor at letters@metropolis.co.jp.

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