The people here in Tokyo are better than me. In many ways, but one in particular: they are not wussies about the heat. If you’ll notice in the photo, which is taken inside Shibuya station, there is a woman wearing stockings and a cardigan. I took this photo on Friday. It was 34 degrees (‘feels like 42’) outside, and it’s much hotter in the bowels of the station though the actual trains are air-conditioned.
The people here are stoic. It’s almost as if they dissociate themselves from the heat, then they won’t be hot. According to a friend who lives here, dissociation and distancing oneself is a necessary survival mechanism in a city this big. I see his point…it’s pretty orderly and polite all in all, otherwise anarchy would quickly take over. Anyway, I digress. The heat is insane. Everyone carries handkerchiefs here and in the summer, it’s basically the equivalent of a small washcloth to literally mop the sweat from your fevered brow. They are quite fashionable, embellished with all manner of brand names ranging from Betsey Johnson to Kitson to Laudree (which is a French baker specializing in macarons). They also have special tissue paper that soaks the oil off your skin. However, many people don’t appear to actually be sweating at all. These are often women, dressed in full kimono or in stockings, a dress and a cardigan. Stockings, as in nylons or pantyhose…with high heels. It actually boggles the mind. To add insult to injury, most of the mid-range and cheap clothing here is polyester (an abomination from biblical times) so it doesn’t even breathe. No cheap linen and cotton from Old Navy. They do have The Gap, Zara and H&M but it’s not as affordable as you would expect, though the Japanese equivalent, Uniqulo, has some good deals.
It’s also a more formal society here so you wouldn’t be seeing casual cotton shorts and T-shirts in the city anyway. Often when women and young girls wear shorts, they wear them with stockings; sheer or skimpy tank tops are usually worn with a camisole and they have special arm gloves to protect your you from the sun should you be wearing a short-sleeved shirt. Men wear full on suits (also polyester) with long-sleeved shirts and ties and many employees and blue-collar workers wear uniforms…also polyester. It’s a bit more casual on the weekend but still, on the whole, people wear a lot more clothing despite the heat. I’m not sure how they do it… Karis and I seem to get the beginnings of heat stroke whenever we’re out for more than an hour. Maybe it’s a Zen thing? Probably not something I’ll be mastering any time soon.
Eisa Matsura Festival participants and the Braille pathways I keep tripping over 😉
Accessibility isn’t the first thing you would likely think of when Tokyo comes to mind; however, they’ve made a valiant effort with elevators, ramps, stair lifts and a raised Braille pathway along the sidewalk. Most packaged products also have Braille labels. Do we have that in Canada? I’m thinking we don’t but I could be wrong as it may be one of those things you don’t really notice unless it pertains to you or when you’re in a foreign country and everything is novel. Anyway, today must have been my day to notice how the Japanese treat the disabled or partially-abled. I’m not sure what the correct term is these days. I’ve been here since June 30 and scuffled around, stubbing my toes a few times, on the raised yellow sidewalks but I hadn’t seen one blind person in Tokyo using the aforementioned pathways. Today I saw four blind people–one in the subway station and three at the festival (see below). I’m not kidding AND I’m happy to report they were using the raised yellow sidewalk and it seemed to be fulfilling its purpose guiding people safely through the city and subway stations. Personally, I can barely figure out the subway stations and I can see so I have deep respect for those who navigate this crazy place with any sort of disadvantage beyond not speaking or reading Japanese.
Today I decided to go to the Eisa Matsuri Festival in Shinjuku. There was another festival in Kagurazaka but it necessitated a longer time on the subway and a change of trains and it was simply to hot to cope. Shinjuku is a no-brainer–three stops on the Yamanote Line, 160Y. It was, as usual, ridiculously hot–34 degrees but ‘feels like’ (a term I have grown to hate) forty-one degrees; however, this seems to be the way of things and I can’t simply stay inside all day.
So you’re probably wondering how accessibility, the blind, the weather and a festival all fit together. Well, the weather is simply an aside that I can’t help but mention as it is truly oppressive and hard for me to overlook. The other three do come together nicely. I’ll write more about the festival later but the coolest thing about it was that there were kids with both mental and physical disabilities completely participating in the dancing and drumming. I didn’t actually notice any difference between the kids until the one young man in the photo turned towards me and gave me a huge smile. It was a fun experience, despite the heat and I figured if they’re out in the sun dancing and drumming I should stop whining and take a few photos!