It is upon a rare occasion that snows fall on Tokyo. That isn't to say they never do, but maybe every half decade or so there will be enough to disrupt the traffic of the metropolis. In more northerly climes and along the Japan Sea coast, local ordinances require cars to don snow tires during the winter months come icy blasts or no, but not Tokyo. When the snow sprinkles, chaos reigns. The highways close, the normally clock perfect train system is delayed and drivers put their foot down as if it's a summer's day. And wonder why they spin. And then the tunnels close too and people leave cars, keys in the ignition so the rescue services can move them later, taking to shanks' pony home.
The airports will see hundreds of cancelled flights and yet optimistic travelers still battle the elements to arrive on time for a blanket and a piece of floor for the night. Daylight sees planes, great stranded steel birds, queueing for a gate to load tired but stoic passengers and finally take them to the skies. There is little dissent or disruption, and if there is, it is more than likely not of Japanese making. People just politely accept their lot, keep calm and carry-on as it were.
I once walked, in an early morning, past a school where the teachers were clearing the snow in front of the gates. This is seen as something of a civic duty, an act in which almost all of the population will engage. One of the teachers was a young woman in a business suit and high heels and, with her colleagues, she was shoveling as best she could. Being western my initial thought was to help, take the shovel and complete the task for her. But stopping to think from her perspective I realized she wasn't there to clear the snows, but to be seen to be making her own contribution. If I took the shovel she'd more than likely continue with her bare hands. In trying to help, I'd be making the situation worse. And so I lent her my gloves, asking if she would leave them on the wall when she had finished. And there they were the next day, folded neatly, exactly where I'd asked her to leave them. And so Tokyo may fall apart in the winter weather, but the people remain Japanese. Polite and thinking of others. Happy snow storm.
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