Readers in Council,
The Japan Times,
5-4, Shibaura 4-chome,
Minato-ku, Tokyo 108-0023
My central Tokyo neighborhood is very convenient. There is a subway station, a general hospital and a public high school among much else within easy walking distance of my home. Every morning when I walk to the local station to begin my daily commute I pass a stream of handsome teenagers - the beauty of youth - heading towards the maw of the local school where, little doubt, their sports coaches are apt to beat them into submission while calling it “motivation.” In doing so the students flow past the daily queue of elderly awaiting admittance to the gullet of the outpatient clinic for their regular treatments. I am never sure if what I am seeing is a symbiotic relationship or a parasitic one, or if anyone else sees it like I do. I see a river of youth destined/doomed to serve and support these elderly that they pass with neither a glance nor a thought every morning, and I see a class of seniors who don’t think of themselves as parasites but as champions justly receiving the rewards they were promised when they devoted their lives to Japan Inc. Maybe the outpatients secretly cast resentful eyes towards the young with the conviction that youth has yet again been wasted on the wrong people.
At the same time I see two organs of the state - the school and the hospital - with voracious appetites for ingesting human traffic at opposite ends of the age spectrum. In their daily march to school the young can see their future lined up with the aged outside the hospital doors. Maybe they will travel the world in their adult lives but still end up in the same queue in the same neighborhood where they once attended school.
I don’t know what to make of it all. But so long as I am living here and participating in this society it makes an interesting spectacle: observations to blog about.
Published on Sunday, March 3, 2013 as “Circle of life in the neighborhood.”