Wednesday, May 03, 2006


There I was - as I've been doing a couple of times a week for over 10 years now – tootling down the little street behind the train station on my way south, when I passed a watchful policeman standing by the roadside, which was ok because my seatbelt was on, I'd come to a complete stop, used all my signals properly, paid my taxes, possessed a proper visa and hadn't done anything felonious within the statute of limitations, so all was cool...

The first thing I thought when the several nice policemen at the other end of the street flagged me down was that the street must be blocked at that end for construction or something, maybe a local festival, but no, it wasn't that at all, it was something much more stimulating and informative. The police helpfully explained that, as of an uncertain time ago, the street was no longer a street on some days between 2 or 3 to 4 or 5pm and 6 or 7 to 9 or 10 pm or was that am, while pointing out, by way of proof, a sign that was not a traffic sign.

On one end of the cyclone fence that parallels the street, someone with a delightful sense of humor had hung a sort of banner featuring a smiling cartoony grandmother and some cartoony smiling schoolkids, kind of a peripheral vision safety poster that careful drivers would observe only out of the edge of their eyes since, in the interest of public safety, careful drivers turning into the street wouldn't dare take their eyes off the road - or the de facto grandmothers and schoolkids thereon - to read the detailed print at the bottom of a delightful cartoon sign that didn't, after all, say Drivers, Watch Out for the Elderly and the Schoolkids around the Station, and Have a Nice Day! Believe me, I could only grin from ear to ear!

I took particular delight in the fact that nobody at all had informed anybody at all about the change in the standard way, for example via the internationally recognized round red street sign with the white bar through it that is posted in prominent visibility at each end of subject streets everywhere else in Japan, indeed the entire world, with below that sign a smaller rectangular white sign where, forewarned, you look to find out the particulars; charmingly, they did nothing like that on either end of the half-block thoroughfare. So I couldn't help but smile at the nice policemen and their cute sign, while radiating goodwill.

Stopped in the middle of the street where I could actually read the entertaining cartoon, it informed me that the street was not a street not every day between 2 or 3 to 4 or 5pm and 6 or 7 to 9 or 10 pm or was that am? I had to chuckle at the acute wisdom and broad generosity all this involved, taking comfort as well in the judicial economy and select forethought that had gone into it, what with the waning tax base and the need to sustain essential boondoggles while somehow coming up with a way to maybe cover the salaries of the nice policemen as they stand around on little back streets and flag down the citizenry to share in the public joy.

I thought the whole thing was a knockout of an idea, and immediately made my 70-dollar contribution so that the law's eager minions can keep on with such approaches to safety, the better to preserve us all from the many problems that come with having finally got a little money in the bank. But I frowned at having to break the law once more by driving the rest of the way down the little street so as to become legal again, when I could smile heartily once more.


Anonymous said...

Very nice blog! Japan is beautiful country.


Joy Des Jardins said...

Very funny Robert. Did you really smile through all that? You know, I think you did.

Chancy said...

Robert, you probably smiled the smile that you flash at those mischevious monkeys who sit by the side of the road and taunt you as you zoom down the road near your home.

Sweet. cute little darlins' they don't know any better

Mary Lou said...

LOLOL And I bet you were just as proud as punch, to be able to make your contribution! LOLOLOL