Saturday, November 12, 2011

Small Adventure #22

There's a growing, but still very small, dissatisfaction with certain problems in Japan. Primarily, it's with nuclear power, brought to a head by the continually-growing crisis at Fukushima following the Mar. 11 quake. Even the newspapers are finally disclosing some of the stories, including the fact that the big electrical power company - TEPCO - had suppressed maintenance work on the safety features that had led to the explosion. Additionally, TEPCO had inserted employees at government-led meetings to ask pro-nuke questions, and had them attend political rallies and buying tickets for meet-the-politician campaigns (the agency is barred from contributing to political campaigns directly) as a form of contributing to the campaigns indirectly. The details are slowing making their way to the public, and a tiny handful of the public is getting unhappy with it.

One of the results is that a few people, like university professors, are hosting blogs to complain about the situation more vocally, and setting up gatherings where they can meet and talk in person. Recently, we were invited to one such gathering, where the focus was anti-war, and the highlight was a showing of the Iraq war-related film Route Irish. As for the gathering itself - the discussion was limited to the acting in the film, and even though it was in English with Japanese subtitles, the editing of the film was so tight that I got lost in the middle. It's a great anti-Iraq war propaganda piece, but the story is confusing and I found the ending weak.

Anyway, what interested me was the apartment building that the event was held in. My building is very new and very modern. There are some sliding doors, but they're made of solid wood, and the design as a whole is western, if extremely compact. In contrast, this other place was in an older neighborhood just west of the Tenmonkan shopping complex, mixed in with some offices and the Honganji temple building. The first floor is just an open parking area, with the water pipes running along the ceiling. The pipes were all thick with rust, and I kept looking for dripping leaks (Japanese developers still insist on using iron and plain steel, which turns to rust in a matter of just a few years in the salt air here). The room had the older tatami mat floors, and paper screen sliding doors. The living room doubled as the bed room, with the one futon rolled up and stored in the side closet. The main sliding door was pulled out and leaned against the wall to make room for the kotatsu table and projector. In all, there was just enough space to hold the 8 people that attended. Outside, the hall was plain concrete covered with a cheap whitewash. The apartment doors were big, heavy iron reinforced things that made the hallway look like a maximum security prison.

The most interesting part, though, was the room numbering. The apartment was in the 800's, so we expected to find it on the 8th floor. But it was just a 7 story building and the apartments on the top floor all started with "700". Instead, when we went to the 4th floor, and we found the 800's apartments there.

This is like with hotels in America that don't have a 13th floor because "13" is an unlucky number. In Japan, the word for 4 is "shi", which is also the word for "death". Because many Japanese renters would prefer to not have an address like "death-00", the landlord decided to renumber the rooms instead. The elevator still ran from 1 to 7, but the numbers on the doors went 1, 2, 3, 8, 5, 6, 7. I guess this aversion to "shi" extends to anti-war activists, too.

No comments: