Straight face

Me: Hi Japan.

Japan: Hello again.

Me: What’s wrong?

Japan: Nothing.

Me: Really?

Japan: Yeah, why?

Me: You just look a bit glum. That’s all.

Japan: Glum?

Me: A little, yeah. Well, to be honest, you often don’t really look like you’ve got any emotion at all. You sometimes look completely detached from yourself. Almost automated. It’s as if your face has forgotten that the rest of your body is alive. You’ve got the ultimate dead pan poker face.

Japan: Poker? That’s illegal.

Me: I never have a clue what you’re thinking. You could be deliriously happy or woefully depressed and you’d look pretty much the same. You’ve won a million dollars? Straight face. Somebody’s taken a shit in your handbag? Straight face. Have you ever thought about doing some facial exercises to get things moving a bit more up there?

Japan: You live in Tokyo, don’t you?

Me: Yep.

Japan: And you spend a bit of time each day on public transport, don’t you?

Me: Yep.

Japan: Well, that’s your problem right there. If you want to see happy friendly faces don’t go to the middle of Tokyo on a train. It’s all elbows and blank looks. Nobody’s got anytime for smiling. You want to get yourself out to the countryside or down to Osaka.

Me: I’ve been there.

Japan: And?

Me: You’re right actually. There was a bit more emotion on show. I felt as though as was amongst people rather than surrounded by black suited workbots. What’s wrong with Tokyo?

Japan: Nothing.

Me: But the people always seem to wear plain, windowless expressions, constantly trying not to make eye contact with anybody else in case they have a moment that reminds them that they’re not dead.

Japan: It’s easy for Osaka. It was the trading centre of the country. The traditional places to do business, buy, sell and, as a result, socialise.

Me: But Japan’s the capital.

Japan: Exactly.

Me: What?

Japan: Exactly. It’s the capital. Osaka is the traditional place to do business and socialise. Tokyo is the traditional place to do politics.

Me: So it’s full of politicians and self conscious image and people putting on a straight face and masking any trace of feeling?

Japan: That’s right.

Me: Well, this can’t go on.

Japan: How do you mean?

Me: No, this is no good. People need cheering up a bit.

Japan: No they don’t. It’s fine. Everybody is well aware of the differences. It’s ok. You can’t change a few hundred years of culture and commerce and millions of people just because you’re a foreigner who thinks they know everything.

Me: We should launch a campaign. Cheer Up Tokyo.

Japan: Stop.

Me: We could put a monkey on every train. Hand out free lollipops at metro exits. Custard Pie Tuesdays!

Japan: What?

Me: It’s perfectly legal to chuck a custard pie in a strangers face. But only on Tuesdays. Funny Hat Friday. Space hoppers for everybody. Water Pistol Wednesday. Topless darts!

Japan: I’m calling immigration.

Me: OK, OK, OK. I guess i’ll just have to bury my head in a book or a smart phone instead and screw my earphones into my head and pretend that 30 million other people don’t exist and shuffle from one box in the suburbs to one box in the office and back again and generally just try and master some form of urban camouflage where i appear to notice nothing and nothing appears to notice me but everybody is secretly checking each other out and sizing each other up in a constantly evolving social surveillance mechanism.

Japan: Exactly. Thank you.


February 15, 2012. Uncategorized.

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