I got off of writing for awhile...been on the road—still on the road, actually—in Japan, that is. It's been seven years since I was here last The place has changed a lot, and I myself have changed even more. I find myself little interested in going to the "Japanese" places that I used to put on my list and am far more interested in seeking out the little Japanese things (without the quote marks) that open at least a small window into what is going on.
I was rather stunned to see the obvious difference in atmosphere between Tokyo and Osaka, and marvel at my own obtuseness in not noticing it on earlier visits. In Tokyo, a goodly proportion of the women seem to have taken the inspiration for their dress from the pages of a manga book (quite enjoyable for the onlooker) and everyone walks extremely fast—though I've heard there is a strong correlation between city population and walking speed. Tokyo is at the extreme end of the spectrum by both measures.
There is also something of a fad for wearing surgical masks. So you get the incongruous sight of a young woman dressed to the nines in a frilly microskirt and seven-inch heels, elaborately applied make-up and hair ribbons, and then gilding the lily with a surgical mask. I myself would die a premature death rather than wear one of those things.
In Osaka, on the other hand, about half the people on the street dress like refugees from a homeless shelter. The difference was obvious the instant I hit the sidewalk. And the taxi, was by no means meticulously clean like those in Tokyo. The trunk was half filled with the driver's own weird crap.
There was a thought-provoking scene in Osaka. A girl, obviously profoundly hard of hearing, was trying to get service in a shop and the guy behind the counter was wearing one of those damn masks. You're really screwed in this country if you rely on reading lips to get around.
The lights are out in the big cities—at least the big neon advertising signs—reflecting the ongoing power crisis in Fukushima. But the cities are still far sparklier than any place I ever lived.