Zen and the art of roadwork

30 Jan

I have been in Japan for the past two weeks. As always, in a strange country, little things jump out at you. Hey, they do things different here!

One of the lovely things about Japan is the pleasure that people take in the minutiae of life. Consider the ‘stop/go’ man. In Australia, this is a very dull occupation. You stand by the side of the road. You turn the sign saying ‘stop’, to one saying ‘go’. Occasionally, if a car is driving too fast, you might wave your hand in a ‘slow down’ action.

In Japan, the ‘stop/go’ man is a highly trained performer. In the daytime, he wields the red or white flags. These are waved in a complicated cheerleader- like way. This is followed by a bow as your car goes past, making you feel like an honoured member of a procession.

At night-time the flags are replaced by light sticks, brandished in a way that would put a Byron Bay fire twirler to shame. I admit it can be a little confusing to be confronted by a whirling red light stick. Do they mean, stop? Go? What the hell, just enjoy it and proceed with caution.

The props for the roadwork are almost as good as the performance itself.  There are no boring road barriers here. Instead, barriers are held up by cute green frogs or smiling monkeys, and flashing lights are replaced by flowers with lights undulating out from the centre. It’s calming and beautiful. And perhaps that is what is intended – for each little moment of life to be made as perfect as possible.

Next week – zen and the art of kitchen appliances.

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