Click HERE for todays photos.
(The following is a re-post from my old block that was hacked and deleted. The original date of this post was 3 January 2003)
A few days before New Years I arrived back from the land of big houses, big cars, big portions, and even bigger people (Those last two seem to be linked…)
I am always a little culture shocked when I take a trip back to America. Everyone is so huge, and they all look so different from each other.
I guess after spending so much time in Japan I have started to see America in much the same way as the Japanese.
Yes, it does feel good to be back in Japan. As much as I do enjoy vacations and going back to see my family, I also always enjoy coming back “home” to Japan.
The photos from today’s journal entry were taken on New Years day around Shimikitazawa, near Tokyo. I had walked to the station to meet some friends and walk with them back to my wife’s parents home for a day of eating, drinking, and being merry.
On the way to the station I was snapping photos of the nearly deserted streets. The only really crowded place I saw was a shrine. Everyone was lining up to get a blessing for the New Year.
I continued on to the station and turned a corner to find a person slumped over on the sidewalk. My first though was that he had dropped a contact and was looking for it. Getting a little closer I could see that he was not moving. Were it not for the large pile of vomit that he had his head resting in I would have thought he was praying. Obviously this guy had went on one hell of a binge on New Years eve and was paying the price for it now. Passed out with his head lying in a pool of his own puke. (Gross!!!)
As I was busy documenting the situation for you, my faithful readers, another not so nearly drunk New Years reveler came along. I’m not sure if he knew the passed out guy, but he proceeded to prod him with his foot, trying to get a reaction. No luck. This guy was really out of it. (I can understand his reluctance to get to close to the guy. I myself was using the full telephoto zoom of my camera to get the photos because I am sure this guy smelled even worse than he looked) The guy then got on his cell phone and made a call.
Feeling that I could do no more good here (I had gotten my photos) I decided to move along to the station.
I ran into an Omochi pounding party along the way. Omochi is basically cooked rice that is pounded into the consistency of old elmers glue, with nearly the same taste. It is then lightly grilled and then wrapped in dried seaweed.
I’m not sure what the attraction is, but the Japanese go crazy over this stuff each New Years. The stickiness of it does have its dangers though. Each year many people, mostly the elderly, choke to death on Omochi. The stuff is hard to swallow and just this year alone, Six elderly Japanese died and 25 others were hospitalized, 12 in a coma, in Tokyo after choking on these gooey rice cakes over the New Year’s holiday.
Each year the government issues warning about the dangers of eating Omochi and urges citizens to take smaller bites, chew well, and drink plenty of fluids while they are eating.
I have a better plan. Skip the omochi and just carry around a bottle of fresh elmers glue. Just pull a few leaves off of a tree, squirt on a liberal helping of glue and there you have it, instant omochi, in a safer, liquid form!
On the way back from the station I walked the same route so my friends could see that poor passed out guy. Upon getting closer to the scene it became clear to me who that person had called after trying to rouse the passed out guy. The fire department and ambulance had shown up to cart the guy away to the hospital and get him cleaned up so he could sleep it off in comfort. (And maybe get his stomach pumped).
This kind of thing is not that uncommon here in Japan. On more than a few occasions I have seen an ambulance pick up a drunk person and haul them off to the hospital.
Nice to know that someone is looking out for you, even if you are not doing so yourself. In many parts of America, instead of getting a nice cozy ride to the hospital, this guy would have woken up either still on the street, or even worse, in the drunk tank of the local jail, possibly robbed, and most certainly ticketed for drunk and disorderly conduct.
Yes, it’s good to be back in such a fun-filled safe place!