Saw a trainspotter today. My walk to work takes me past a multi-track segment of the railway, several lines going past, a perfect trainspotting site.
So this guy was standing there at the link fence, a huge-zoomed camera hanging around his neck, checking a printed schedule and looking at his watch anxiously, stamping his feet against the cold. He looked rather pitable, but then, who am I to judge? His hobby takes him into the fresh air, gives him something to do, costs little, and satisfies his need to...look at trains. I can understand it in a way. It's the same urge I had as a boy to collect toy cars, categorise them, line them up, look at them. If this man's hobby seems a bit ridiculous, even laughable , it's important to remember that most men his age in Japan play pachinko.
The only other trainspotter I've met in Japan was a regular conversation school student I had years ago in Tokyo. Middle-aged man, desperate comb-over, missing teeth.
"Trainspotting?", I said in mild surprise.
"Not like the movie!" he said adamantly.
The intensity with which he made this statement, coupled with the almost aggressive countenance he assumed, made him seem for a moment actually not dissimiliar to Begbie as he was stabbling that innocent guy in the pub. I briefly wondered whether the lifestyles of trainspotting and heroin addiction in the Glasgow underworld did in fact overlap in some ways, and that the irony of the otherwise well-chosen movie title was perhaps misplaced.
Then I looked once again at my middle-aged student, who had once claimed that he had never used a washing machine in his life, leaving domestic duties first to his mother and now his wife, and I thought...