Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Guest writer - The man on the top of the Ebisu omnibus

Dr Gabriel Symonds is a long term member and stalwart of the foreign community in Japan. He's also a friend of mine. He looked after me when I was sick and he told my son he would get better when he was too. Now, in well earned retirement, he remains Tokyo based and focuses on helping people kick that nicotine monkey off their backs. And he dropped me a note asking if it would be ok to post a story of our adopted country to TenguLife. And of course it is. Oh, and he also, over lunch one day, inspired a story of street art that will make you smile.

Tokyo Travel

It’s interesting traveling on buses in Tokyo. You can tell the drivers are very well trained and safety is paramount. When a bus turns a corner there is usually a pedestrian crossing, as in the illustration. The bus will come to a complete stop and the driver will deliberately look and point to the left and right and check the front mirror to ensure the road is clear before proceeding. He may audibly say ‘Left, right, front – OK’. This is called ‘pointing and calling’. You can also observe this if you are in the front carriage of a local train, behind the driver. It’s quite a performance. The driver is alone in the compartment and appears to be talking to himself.  He points with his white-gloved hand at the timetable, speedometer and any wayside signs and calls these out aloud. The idea is to focus attention for safety, in which Japan has an excellent record. 

Though I usually travel by car on Tokyo’s congested roads – an experience in itself – sometimes I take the bus. Having reached retirement age, if the bus if full, often a young person will offer me their seat. At first I was shocked that I must appear so old! Now I just say ‘Thank you’ and take the seat – unless a very old person gets on after me in which case I offer my seat to him or her.



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