Yesterday, two magical encounters occurred while riding the mid-day Tokyo Metro to the enormous corporation that is generously supporting my research.
Five stops into the ride, a diminutive older man engages me in conversation and then presents me with an unusual origami crane. By pulling on its paper tail, you can make its wings flap up and down. This energetic grey-haired sprite described himself as a “trouble-maker” who fights to preserve historic buildings, a type of activism Japan needs more of.
Well after he departed the train, the young woman on my other side began resting her sleepy head on my shoulder. A certain amount of proximity and even touching is common on trains, but I became alarmed when more and more of her weight pressed onto my suit jacket. I tried to alert her by saying “excuse me” and even gently touching the top of her head, with no reaction on her part.
I looked across the train, and could see that some passengers were sympathetic and others pretending to ignore the situation. Should I stand up and let her fall over? Should I try to rouse her? How could I wake her without touching her inappropriately?
All of a sudden, a man from the other side of the train came over and gave a hard slap to her shoulder furthest from me. She woke up, and stumbled out of the train without an acknowledgement or look towards me. I was very grateful for the slapper who resolved this uncomfortable situation.