Faith Restored: Not Just Another Train Story

Two days ago, during the Oktoberfest event in Odaiba, I was asked by a U.S.-raised Japanese guy and his girlfriend what I liked about Japan. Without any hesitation, I said “the people”. He simply said “Oh really?”. He must’ve thought I was talking about beautiful and sexy chicks but I wasn’t. I was talking about the Japanese people in general. Every single day that I have spent here, I am constantly reminded of why I didn’t have to think twice about my answer and last night was no different.

Tokyo Train

I was on my way back to the hostel from Roponggi and I boarded my last connecting train from Daimon to Asakusa where my hostel is. About two stops after Daimon, a girl stood by the entrance as the train slowed down until it came to a complete stop. As soon as the doors opened, I saw her take a step forward and two steps back since I was standing near the entrance door. She was obviously drunk. The railway safety officer calmly held her hand and led her inside the same car I was standing in. Her eyes were drooping as she walked to the far end of the car, right next to the canvass that connected our train segment to the next. She held on the handrails with both hands while her handbag slid down her arm. At this point, her knees buckled and she was too weak to stand up so she went on a squat while barely holding on to the handrails. This middle-aged guy, probably in his mid-to-late thirties who was sitting right next to where she was, stood up and assisted her to his seat. Her whole weight just came crashing down on the seat and then she leaned her head against the wall. It looked to me like she had already passed out even before she sat down.

What’s so special about this experience? Well, I’ve seen piss-drunk girls all too many times in so many different places and 99 times out of a hundred, one of three things is bound to happen. Either people around her would turn the scene into a freak show and take turns in taking a selfie with the helpless drunk who was all alone and doesn’t have a clue of what’s going on or some would probably make fun of her, make cheap comments and jokes, mostly sexual in nature. They might think they’re cool and funny but they’re actually not. Or the third scenario would be for people to just ignore her. Most people in this situation would see her as someone drunk. Someone whose dignity went down the drain the moment she puked her intestines out for the first time.

But this is Japan. A lot different than any other place I’ve been to and with that, totally different people. The guy who offered his seat didn’t just see her as someone drunk. Instead, he saw a drunk person. Undoubtedly drunk, but nevertheless still a person. A person with dignity that still deserves to be respected despite the situation she’s in. Yes, she might have made a mistake, but who doesn’t?

I continued to observe the guy for the next 7 or so stops until I got off in Asakusa station. He was scratching his head multiple times, genuinely worried about a girl he doesn’t even know but he felt helpless and didn’t know what to do with the girl who’s asleep on the corner of a train. He treated her like family, like one of his own. Though kindness coming from strangers isn’t a rare sight to see when in Japan. But then again, isn’t that how a country is supposed to be? A big family. Or the whole human population for that matter. Just a thought….

 

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