This is Mozo Wonder City. I don’t know what Mozo means, but Wonder City is certainly the perfect name for a giant shopping mall, isn’t it? Each chain store is filled with “wonder” at retail prices. Each chain restaurant serves platefuls of wonder to guests lined up out the door and down the corridors. We are truly fortunate to be part of the shopping mall generation. Maybe instead of “shopping mall” we should rename all malls “Wonder Cities.” It seems more fitting. This kind of shopping mall is fairly new in Japan. I’m glad it’s here. Before Wonder City we used to have to go outside between stores. Like people used to do before The Gap. You probably can’t imagine what it’s like having to go outside to shop. In summer it’s hot and in winter it’s cold. Sometimes it’s even raining. In Wonder City it never rains. The weather is perfect. The people are all smiling. The streets are paved with carpet, and the sidewalks move. It’s as wonderful as they say. Like Charlie in the Chocolate Factory — Gene Wilder version. Except for the Oompah Loompahs. I still don’t know what “Mozo” means.
If this blog had loyal fans, they might have been wondering what happened to the guy who’s supposed to be writing it. Fortunately my absent two weeks went by completely unnoticed in all but the most sensitive of internet wired households. But in case you did chance to wonder what happened to me, I’ll tell you. Like Bill Murray I was stuck in Groundhog Day. People are creatures of habit, after all. If you eat lunch in the same restaurant everyday pretty soon you start to sit at the same table, order the same food and tell the same jokes to the waitress. So being stuck in Groundhog Day shouldn’t surprise me particularly. But it did. The Yakusa train station is out in the sticks where Nagoya’s prefab suburban houses give way to narrow roads, forests and rice fields stepping up mountainsides. the station is where the shiny monorail “linimo” (the train that goes nowhere) meets the Aichi Loop Line. (The train that comes from nowhere circles around nothing and returns to nowhere.) Out there you feel “one” with the windswept rice, undulating trees and neon wrapped Pachinko Parlors with enough parking for a small stadium. I had to go out there for a job everyday for the past two weeks. In Nagoya people pour in and out of trains like water. It’s never clear where one person ends and the other begins. But in the country people behave more like people are supposed to. They don’t push by or knock into each other, and if they do they apologize. They also do the same thing everyday. The first I noticed it was when I noticed a school girl sitting alone on the opposite platform. I noticed her on day one as the train pulled away taking everyone else that was waiting with it. She alone remained. A strangely lonely sight. On day two she sat there again, on the very same bench. I looked down and noticed I was on the same bench as the previous day myself. Then I looked at the guy waiting in front of me. He was the same guy as the day before too. So I kept going to that same bench. And I began to recognize more and more people on the platform–each going to exactly the same place everyday. The short woman who always positioned herself between the two lines for the door. The school girl’s friend on the opposite platform who always arrived later. The bald guy who always sat on the other side of my bench and read a book. Soon I came to recognize nearly everybody–at least everybody who waited at the last door of the second car. And on my last day I felt sad to see them all go–after our two weeks of reliving the same morning over and over.
I found this sign in the historic tourist town of Nara. It reads: “Drinking Parties prohibited.” The finer print politely states as clarification “You’re not allowed to have drinking parties.”At least that makes it a little clearer. Too bad. Looks like an ideal spot for a wild drinking party. We could’ve put the keg right next to the sign. “The Man” is always bringing us down.