Monday, January 14, 2013 3:24 PM
Our house, in the middle of our street
Long time no post, and all that.
Anyway, it snowed in Tokyo today, and not just the usual brief whitening of the ground - the Kanto area was buried in drifts of up to 13cm, which are for the most part still there even though the snow has eased off. People from places like Niigata and Sweden are probably laughing uncontrollably at the way the capital region ground to a halt under whole centimetres of chrystalised water. Luckily it was a public holiday, otherwise the entire Japanese economy would have been paralysed.
So, as you can probably guess, unlike some more warmness-challenged cities Tokyo does not exactly have fleets of snow-removal equipment ready and raring to go at the first signs of white precipitation, and I certainly wasn't expecting our little street to magically be cleared at the expense of the tax payer. However when I went out to shovel snow off our steps as a precautionary measure using the only tool to hand (a 100yen store dustpan) I couldn't help notice some of the neighbours out shovelling snow off the road. Personally I was working on the assumption that the snow would melt away quickly and that no further action would be required on my part. However the Mrs. was of a different opinion and shortly afterwards I found myself clearing the road using the aforesaid dustpan. Which is not quite as impossible as it might sound, even though the handle soon snapped off.
Now, around that point things started to get interesting, from a neighbourhood dynamics point of view. On our little street there are 10 houses, all in a row and all built by the same company last year, but despite having lived there for 6 months we are still at a bit of a loss what to make of most of our neighbours, even though we went to the trouble of introducing ourselves. For a start, there's a bit of a "class divide". Houses 6 to 10 are the bigger houses, with plots which are a whole 10sqm larger than we plebs of houses 1 - 5, and were also occupied first.
This is the road following the neighbourhood snow clearing operation seen from the front of our house looking towards houses 6 to 10:
House 6 is occupied by the elderly Mr. S, who as far as we can tell goes to bed at about 7pm, and is an OK kind of dude, so we cleared his steps and a patch of road in front of his house, but that's the only snow clearing which got done on the posh part of the street. Presumably such menial activity is below them.
Meanwhile, our neighbour on the other side, house 4, was also out with a dustpan. He is a young-ish guy (somewhere around 30 I'd guess) who is married and has two young-ish children and is fond of his car. Incredibly that's pretty much all I know about them, neither me nor the Mrs. can even recall their name. The best I can say is that they seem to be inhabiting their own little planet, and will respond to greetings but otherwise they show all the sociability of their car.
So there's me and Mr. House 4 busily scraping off the snow with dustpans, while the Mrs. does her best with a garden trowel, bless her, when Mr. I from house 1 appears in front of me with two shovels and offers us the use thereof. I should mention at this point that houses 1 and 2 ha
d already been busy removing snow, and house number 2 also owns its own snow shovel, which the owner - Mr. O - was busy using on the section of road not fronted by any houses, having already cleared his own stretch of road. (Mr. O, I should point out, appointed himself head of the street's chonaikai branch, but has so far not shown any dictatorial tendencies, also he and his wife are the only people we've had a conversation with which has lasted longer than two sentences).
It struck me as a bit odd that Mr. I he didn't offer one of the shovels to Mr. House 4 (maybe he did and I just didn't notice it), and thought about rectifying the situation, but took another look at Mr. House 4 in his own dustpan-wielding world and understood without knowing why.
Having cleared the road in front of our own residence, we went to take the shovels back to Mr. O of house 1, and on the way passed House 3 who had evidently only made a token effort, during which an act of extreme brain deadness caused them to heap the snow they had cleared onto the roadway itself, which if you have any experience with snow means there will now be a pile of snow - in the middle of the road - which will remain there for a long while even if there's a thaw.
(I would like at this point to give the staff at the taxi depot on the nearby main road a special mention - clearing snow by hosing it down with water is a genius idea, and the way the water pooled up on the pavement waiting to freeze overnight is sheer brilliance.)
Somehow we and Mr. O spontaneously decided it would be best for the community and society as a whole if this abberration was removed, and while we were doing that Mr. House 4 joined in of his own violition and without saying a word. And continued shovelling in his own little world with nary an "o-tsukare sama".
Partial neighbourhood cooperation at work - houses 1 to 5:
Anyway it was good exercise and at least half the street will be safe in the morning, as the thaw appears to have stopped and the snow still lying on the ground has gone all hard and crusty. And I still don't know the neighbours any better.