March and April in Egypt and then May and June in Japan. 2023 was not meant to be this way, but COVID is to blame — and will be blamed for another trip in September. So I interrupt what I wanted to say about Egypt and Ramses II with a little bit about our trip to Japan with a grandson (his high-school graduation present three years late).
Of the 130 million people living in Japan, 33 million of them live in the Tokyo area, which makes for some crowded streets. What it does not mean are litter, graffiti and people living on the streets — or at least not to what we saw in our two weeks visiting Japan. We did not look under every freeway pass or in every park where the unhoused people live in Seattle, but we only saw one or two people sleeping on the pavement.
Trash? Concentrated hunt for it. Two smashed beverage cans on day 1 during our eight-mile walk through the city. Day 2: Candy wrappers here and there occasionally but a spotty coverage at best. And there are very few trash cans on the streets. What do people do with their litter? Take it home with them?
But the most remarkable thing I saw on the streets of Tokyo — besides the rivers of people — were bicycles without locks. That can’t be in a big city like this, I thought. A closer inspection showed that yes, there were bikes unlocked, but many had a small ring locked around the back tire. Try to hop on and ride away? You’d be straddling the crossbar in seconds, and it would serve you right. No cycle stands to clog up the sidewalks. Bikes pulled off to the side with only a tiny ring to stop the bike thieves in Japan. Would that work in Seattle, in the United States of America? Hell no. Thieves here would drive around in a semi loading bike after bike until they spilled out the top as the truck drove to the hidden chop shop (once the former Seattle Times building) to cut through the tiny rings, leaving the former owner to buy another bike.