Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Before I Forget

It's odd, much of what makes unfamiliar cultures interesting is not the drastic differences but the subtle ones-the quirks. It's similar to love. Maybe at first you are drawn in by more immediately apparent things; their laugh, or wit, or how they fit into their jeans but it often takes a while before you notice the important things, the qualities that make them endearing are the ones that don't initially pop out at you, maybe even the ones you forget if you don't think about them. Why am I saying all this?? Well, because I almost forgot one such endearing feature of Japan: the unicycle. (1)
Unicyles are know throughout the world. No doubt you have seen one before, perhaps even tried to operate one. In Japan the majority of the population is proficient. At least those under the age of 15 are and probably the older ones too it's just less quantifiable in them. When the recess song begins (short melodies are used to alert you to the time, there are even loudspeakers throughout the cities that play one at noon and six everyday) the children scatter across the playground, organising their various activities. Soccer, dodgeball, and jumprope are all popular. But there are also groups of kids riding around effortlessly on their unicycles. It's pretty surreal at first and, of course, you feel like you are at a very strange, and possibly in violation of child-labor laws, circus but with time you grow quite charmed by and eventually accustomed to it. And then you forget about it, just like you forget your girlfriend's shoulder freckles, until some event, or passing conversation, or place reminds you and you make a note to remember it.

(1) I had to type that twice because the first time I wrote pogo-stick. Ridiculous.


zanzibar said...

Now that's WEIRD. And quite amusing, not to mention full of implications for those seeking insight into the japanese culture. Bravo.

ariel said...

ha ha ha. this is an awesome post, matt. you have such a good way of engaging a listener when you write.