Three days ago I had to go to the town hall of Shibuya to arrange some paperwork (in Tokyo every district has its own town hall, and all of them are subordinated to the Tocho); so I woke up very early to get there and finish everything up as soon as possible. Shower, breakfast, I go out to the streets, sun, blue sky, crows cawing. I border Yoyogi park with my bicycle, I pass by the main headquarters of the national television NHK where I see how Takeshi Kitano just arrives to work and I eventually make it to the Shibuya town hall.
The problem is that I arrived at 8:10am, 20 minutes before they open the doors to the public. However, a woman suddenly approached me and told me kindly that they were not opening until 8:30am but that I could go inside the building and sit down to wait. She opened a back door, we entered the building, I sat down and waited. However, once again, another man came to me to ask why I had come to the town hall. When I answered, he told me with a smile that we could get started even though they were still closed to the public. The man arranged everything in no more than 15 minutes and at 8:25am, being the town hall still closed I already had all my “analog” paperwork solved, wonderful! I was just going out of the town hall when the major of Shibuya was entering to work, he greeted me with a bow.
I went down until the Shibuya crossing, I parked my bike and walked to the main doors of the Shibuya branch of the “Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ” (one of the biggest in Japan). Once again, I arrived before time! but this time nobody let me in before time, it seems security is much more strict in banks than in town halls 😉 I waited standing next to a huge metal door. I was first in line but three minutes before 9:00am 3 people lined just after me. There was a clock next to the door and when it was 8:59am and 20 seconds the door started to move up slowly. When it was 20 cm up, I began to see the heel shoes of two girls, and bit by bit the legs. When the door had gone up until the waist of the girls I could see that behind them there were still more people, all of them lined up waiting for the door to open and welcome the first clients of the day.
The door opened completely and I could see the faces of 18 people, all of them lined up in two lines and facing us staring at the infinite as if they were soldiers. A couple of tense seconds passed with me facing them and looking at them with incredulous eyes. After those two seconds the clock reached 9:00am and the 18 employees of the bank bowed 90 degrees to the four clients that were waiting outside. One of the girls on the first row asked me what I had come to do, she attended me and at 9:10am I went out of the bank with everything solved and on my way to work!
After having lunch in a Korean restaurant, we went with some co-workers to have coffee near Ebisu, in a place where they grind coffee in front of the clients. I don’t like coffee, I think it’s because I still haven’t “learned” how to appreciate its flavor, I almost always order tea instead. This time I decided to try coffee and the truth is that the traditional “Japanese” coffee (that took them a long time to prepare) was quite good. We finished and we went to pay the bill but the waitress told us that we didn’t need to pay, she told us that some old man with mustache had already paid for us. It turns out that an old man with mustache had just passed by in front of the cafeteria and saw us having coffee, he entered and without us noticing he paid all our coffees without saying anything. In our company there is only a man with mustache, he is the vice president of our Japanese holding. What do you think about inviting Japanese style?
I finished working and went to the gym. While I was working out I noticed a man with eccentric looks that was also doing exercise. I know him because he usually reads manga aloud next to Shimokitazawa station. Near him there was a slender girl stretching. I finished my workout and went to the supermarket to do the daily shopping. In the cash register line, the girl that was in front of me said hi to me, she was a Korean girl that works in a restaurant where I usually go on the weekends to buy an obento to eat at home, she asked me if I would go this weekend as well. I went out of the supermarket and when I was two streets from my house I saw the slender girl of the gym that was coming in my direction with her bicycle. It was just a moment, we exchanged looks and smiled to each other with complicity.
I don’t know why but, after many years, the other day I felt for the first time that in a megalopolis of several millions of people, I also can feel like in a small town.