Some of them I’ll explain. Some of them I’ll post pictures for. Others would be pornographic or simply downright creepy for me to possess, so all you’ll get is a sentence or two and the powers of your imagination.
Let’s start with:
- Horror movie sets hiding in the forest
I’m hiking along a little-used trail up the side of a mountain. Coming across an abandoned carnival/tram-ride, with a train car for a motor, whose ropeway ascends and descends the mountain to NOWHERE is not something I ever expected to see. Not in Japan, not anywhere. Trams are for tourist sites or ski hills. Carnival rides are near civilization. Either way, the point they descend to and ascend to is of some importance, not an empty patch of sea or only partially up a mountainside. Why. When. Someday I will find the answers. In the meantime, it’s the perfect set for horror movies.
- Large styrofoam coolers used as aquariums
I can’t believe the number of times I’ve seen this. “You might be a redneck…if you keep your goldfish in styrofoam coolers under your perfectly manicured bonsai.”
- Scooter madness! Toddlers on scooters, held in their parent’s arm. (Yes, one arm. You see you need the other one to steer…) People riding scooters in bath slippers. Scooter gangs. Not biker gangs, scooter gangs. (They do seem slightly scarier than bicycle gangs, though.)
- The worst/scariest driving. Worse than Albertans and elderly Manitobans combined. Solid lines mean nothing. Red means go, but only if the light in the other direction has turned red. Because that means it will turn green in a few seconds anyway, so why not start early? Signals are entirely up to the discretion of the driver. Lights are not to be used here unless it’s dark. (Rain, fog, doesn’t matter. It better be dark before you turn those puppies on or a never-ending stream of drivers will be flashing the bejesus out of you.) And then you’ve got the odd foreigner who pulls into the wrong lane. Fricking terrifying driving.
- Kilometres-long freeway traffic jams switching from 0 km/h to 130 km/h in the space of three minutes.
- A driver in a kilometres-long traffic jam that happens to be moving at 120 km/h who’s having sex with his girlfriend at the same time. I’ve never been so happy to be in a car doing 130. GET PAST THIS CAR BEFORE THEY KILL US!!!
- Post-apocalyptic scenes where no apocalypse happened
This hotel is in perfect condition at first glance…but the vending machines have been looted, all the windows broken, trees are growing into the lobby, and the perfect pavement is interspersed with six foot high grasses… Hey, if I was anywhere near Fukushima or an active volcano, I’d expect this kind of thing, but it’s really strange to encounter these things among thriving, perfectly maintained businesses, or in the middle of nowhere on a mountainside.
- Young women in gorgeous kimonos, with perfect hair and make-up, taking selfies in a convenience store bathroom. So much effort and money put into the display of traditional aesthetics, and? “Thanks for the offer but no, we’d rather take a trashy mirror picture in a bathroom that reeks of excrement than have someone else take a decent photo for us.” (Heheheh. I may have taken liberties translating their reply.)
- A naked man posing on a hillside under a clear plastic umbrella. One rainy day, on the way to Hiroshima, I woke up in time to glance out the car window and see this (brave? crazy? perverted? too poor to take a shower?) man standing in the pouring rain, completely naked, giving Michaelangelo’s David pose a run for its money (David with Umbrella. Artist unknown. On display east of Hiroshima on days with heavy rain. Phone in advance and bring binoculars.) and surveying the cars as they passed. Wow. I guess since he was holding the umbrella, it rules out the free shower theory. Having heard all kinds of (clearly ridiculous) stories about how shy and repressed the Japanese are about their sexuality, I never expected to encounter a nudist in Japan. Which was kind of illogical given the importance of porn and onsens in this country (not that I’m linking the two, by the way). Anything that groups a nation together into a supposed norm (“the Japanese,” “the Chinese,” “Canadians…love Don Cherry”) is bound to be false.
That wraps up today’s list of things I never expected to see in Japan. There’s been more than these of course, but I don’t have all day and neither do you.