Back in the west, my rights and wrongs

2015-04-19 16.12.11

A while ago I wrote after Angie asked me to write about Japan.

Angie, was asking me about Japan and I made a comment that it was going to be very different. She asked me about how I feel it would be different from where I have been before.

I wrote a number of points which now since coming back from Tokyo, I thought it would be a good idea  to reflect on.

  • I’m expecting to face a few delicate situations about race.

I didn’t have a big problem, there were a couple black people around. Generally when walking through a major station you will spot one or two. People kept thinking I was American, when I talked. I was treated as a outsider same as everybody. However when I went to the Onsen/Japanese Spa, which has to be done naked. I did get some odd side glances.

So I was slightly wrong

  • I’m expecting to get lost a few times and not really have help getting back

2015-04-20 16.00.51

Oh I got lost alright!

I was going to Nagashima spa land on the bullet train and transferred to a normal train from Nagoya. It was going to Tomida but somehow went towards Hisai. I can’t work out what happened but I think the train split and half went one way and my part kept going forward. The train staff were friendly enough but busy and sent me back with a note on my ticket.

When I got near Nagoya again, thats when the mystery girl/lady helped me greatly.

It wasn’t the only time but it was the one where somebody took some serious time out to really help me and get me back on track.

Again I was slightly wrong?

  • I’m expecting my size (height and weight) to cause at least one problem

It wasn’t a problem. I did have one slightly drunk Japanese guy make a joke about my size while I was eating Korean BBQ/Yakiniku. Nothing major issue, just a bit of fun.

My height wasn’t a problem although I have to say the Japanese are quite short, so I’m looking over most peoples heads. Makes finding people in the station a lot easier.

So I was wrong…

  • I’m expecting at least one person to touch my hair or poke me in some way.

DSC_5522

Nope unless you count the usual pushing on a train.

Wrong again

  • I’m expecting at least one allergic reaction and the chaos which will come from not being able to commutate what’s happened.

2015-04-24 21.16.24

I had one allergic reaction from a yakitori in Ueno with pre-marinated meat. I did show them the allergy card but I think we mixed the meats and some were marinated with some peanut oil. I say peanut oil only because the reaction I got was sharp and sudden.

We had planned to go clubbing but instead we rushed and got the bill and got a taxi back (in a ride which seemed to go on forever). The reaction was endless throwing up even with 3 antihistamines.

I stayed clear of all soupy stuff and things I had no control over, the one time I let down my guard it happened. At least the next day I was ok and it didn’t involve a trip to the hospital.

So I was right

  • I’m expecting to end up with no cash sometime and being slightly stuck.

Tokyo tower

Yes this did kind of happen. I went to Tokyo bay and used the light railway to go to the islands. As I had a JR pass, I can only get on certain lines, which didn’t include the light railway. Anyway had a look around but I was low on cash, so looked for a seven eleven but didn’t find one. In the end I walked from near Tokyo bay right up the Tokyo tower (Minato). It didn’t seem that far but if I had the cash, I may have got a taxi instead. To be honest I should have checked if Uber worked too.

I did find most places did take chip and pin cards or a signature, but not the smaller restaurants and public transport systems.

I was right…

Alone together forever with the narcissistic?

Tokyo from the Skytree

There is something not quite right about the whole selfies thing. I can’t quite put my finger on it but I think it unlocks something much deeper and more troubling…

Its all about me

The selfie thing, I do find it self indulgent and dare I say it – slightly narcissistic in nature.

Narcissism is the pursuit of gratification from vanity or egotistic admiration of one’s own attributes. The term originated from the Greek mythology, where the young Narcissus fell in love with his own image reflected in a pool of water.

Maybe instead of a pool of water, its a reflection of yourself in a 533 DPI mobile screen?  I don’t think everyone who does a selfie are inherently doing it for narcissistic reasons. Let me be clear about that. But there is something not quite right about seeing friends Selfies all over my facebook timeline of nothing more than people trying to style things out in front of a mirror. Then you get the likes or +1’s.  Finally you got the millions of selfie sticks being sold and used by people who should know better… its enough to  makes you wonder, right?

While in Tokyo, I saw a lot of selfie sticks and lots of people using them. There use seem to go from a picture with friends to a slightly more worrying shot after shot after shot of them self till they got the right one to share. One guy must have taken about 30 pictures before he was happy with one of them. I know because I was watching him on his super bright iPhone 6  plus.

Its about you… alone

As you can imagine I’m not the only one thinking this.

What greater testament could there be to the “me generation” than the rise and rise of the selfie? Anointed by Oxford Dictionaries’ editors as the word of the year after a 17,000% increase in its usage, the selfie is surely the ultimate emblem of the age of narcissism.

One of the names I’m most unlikely to align with is Andrew Keen. I have slammed Andrew in the past for his views on the internet. But it kills me to say, he makes some good points on  Twit.tv’s Triangulation 183. I’m sure his new book will still have me and many others shaking our heads, I haven’t read his book and are unlikely to buy it to be honest but he’s spot on about the use of algorithms and the selfie thing.

Tokyo from up high

While on my trip to Tokyo I took a few selfies. I never quite feel good about it, my face generally describe how I felt about the whole thing. I also started to wonder if the break down in our social humanity (if people like sherry turkle are correct) can be seen ahead of time in Tokyo?

Japan is always known as way ahead of the curve. When most of us were still using desktops and laptops to connect the internet, residents of Japan were using their phones. Theres many other examples but I spotted something which deeply worries me. Sherry Turkle’s connected alone was playing out everywhere you went.

Selfie Sticks

I was in the queue for a rollercoaster and 4 guys were standing in silence through out the whole 40-50min queue. There were each transfixed to their phones not uttering a single word till we finally got on the ride and then they were best buds, laughing and chatting away. I saw them again later (the theme park wasn’t that busy and isn’t that big – about the size of Thorpe Park) and it was more of the same.  They may have been playing the same game but together they were alone.

Alone together

Sad as it may be (you could say its part of the Japanese culture, but I’m not so sure), you are seeing more and more of this. And its not just a age thing. The online world can be very seductive and some people forget the offline world for many reasons. Maybe things are difficult there, things are not going so well, they can be somebody else? Theres a load of reasons.

Two pieces I have saved in my instapaper, really got me going…

One is via Tony Churnside10 Reasons Why This Generation Is Losing The Ability To Be In Love.

Every individual in the world is egocentric; we all think about our needs and ourselves first and foremost. Whether this is good or bad doesn’t really matter; the world is the way it is. It’s part of human nature.The problem arises when our egocentricity overtakes our ability to feel empathy. As human beings, we have no choice but to live and function within society, within communities of different sizes.

And I found the next one while following links on a site called Thought catalogueThis is the new loneliness

Our generation of sadness and loneliness is of the unchecked variety. Of wallowing. Of letting ourselves be disconnected from both others and ourselves. Learning to soothe more than heal. Learning to put a band-aid on problems instead of working through and solving our problems. If something is not immediate, we don’t want it, even if it’ll make us stronger. We’re not growing as people, not really. We’re shoving away “bad feelings” we don’t want to face by clicking, refreshing, scrolling until we’ve numbed ourselves out enough. It’s addiction.

We cut ourselves off from others, avoiding contact with outsiders. How scared are we? That we are not willing to hand over our camera and talk to (maybe) a familiar stranger?  Who knows what fruitful conversations may spring up because of that moment/encounter/opportunity? But we will never know because we are too focused on our virtual selves.

Sherry Turkle and Andrew Keen could have wrote either and I would somewhat believe it was them.

Akihabara, Tokyo

Virtual friends and likes

This should go without saying because there has been so much said about virtual friends, buddy lists, likes, +1’s, follower counts,  etc. And this is also where the difference between Narcissism (the pursuit of gratification from vanity or egotistic admiration of one’s own attributes) and Egocentrism (the inability to differentiate between self and other).

I use narcissism because I feel it requires other people to breed as such. Its also something we shouldn’t be heading towards. I can deal with a room of egocentric people for a short while, but a room of narcissists is deeply worrying.

Its all pretty troubling but I have hope for humanity. I feel like its a craze right now. The market can sell more goods you don’t actually need. The drive has always been to make us feel less empowered and cut us off from each other. A disfranchised citizen makes a good consumer?  Retreating to the wall gardens of the 5 stacks.

My hope is we will have more which saddle between the real and virtual worlds and operate in a open fashion. I believe the user interfaces we build, shapes our use and therefore it shapes us – ontological design. From the Cluetrain

#79 –  We want you to drop your trip, come out of your neurotic self-involvement, join the party.

Warning!

This was written and scheduled during a 17 hour flight with very little actual sleep (trying to adjust to GMT as soon as I get off the plane). I’m very tired and I am likely to be connecting things in a very weird way (not like that never happens eh?). But I do feel like there is a link and worth posting…