Driving in Japan

Where do you go when the only way to go is blocked by someone more stubborn than yourself? That is the situation I found myself in yesterday. To say Japanese streets are narrow is to understate the case. I took a “shortcut” yesterday I call the “argument street” a clunky translation of Japanese. If you have a blocker as I did for the first several hundred meters conflicts are usually fended off by someone else. If, as happened yesterday, the blocker turns off on to one of the tens of side-roads you are left to your own devices. I had made it through the main area, was able to see the end of the road, had 3 cars behind me which usually act as a brake on any oncoming cars trying to do something fancy. Well well. Enter the Dragon. I found myself in the car with my 2 children and wife facing an oncoming driver who by all measures should have waited but decided that wasn’t in the cards today. And had decided I, along with my 3 back up cars, would have to back up about 150 meters, instead of him backing up 10 to the wide area just behind him. It also wouldn’t do for him to pull into a parking space immediately to his left and let all of us pass. What followed was a 5 minute showdown of sorts. I even cut my engine at one point in a fit of annoyance and of course not to be outdone he did the same. I would like to stress some points. He was a somewhat fashionable, somewhat young man. In his early 30s or a little more, lots of silver and copper jewelry visible on his fingers. Compare to me. Frumpy older guy that looks as if I might have stayed in my studio one day too many. If I had seen diamonds on his unnaturally shortened fingers I and those supposedly holding my back would have been out of there in a second, backing up that is. As an extra I got a lecture, yelled out his open window, on how I HAD to have known that I was in the wrong and for my misdeeds I was going to be the one to back up. This was delivered in a kind of dirty Japanese that I can understand but can’t properly respond to in kind. I can respond in English and sometimes I have but the situation was of such a bizarre nature it caught me off guard. I did back down. I pulled into the parking space after my etiquette teacher reluctantly pulled back a couple of meters and gave me room to let him pass.

To say I was furious is correct. I was also somewhat confused at what had happened. I have had some run-ins with Japanese over the years. I have also learned that there is no reason to go to battle with someone convinced that they are right. I had one memorable experience on a packed  train. A man was basically pressing his body into mine when it wasn’t really THAT packed. I tried a number of things to no avail and then tried stepping on his foot. Doing that seemed to bring a unmistakable sense of pleasure to him.  I am talking about martyr complex, conqueror fantasies pleasure. What he was conquering I never found out. Like yesterday, when I sense there is a larger battle that I have somehow stumbled into I almost always try to back off. Although usually not before cutting my engine  once or twice. 


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