Sunday, October 18, 2009

Japanese Hobbies #1: Lining Up

These happy people are lining up, both sides of the street, for hours, to eat noodles. The ramen shop (I had a look inside) has seating space for a about 8, and is just one of many ramen shops (mostly empty) in the neighbourhood.

But these people did not come here to go to just any noodle shop. Make no mistake: they have come for the line. Japanese people are nothing if not easily influenced: they saw a special about this place on TV, or read about it in a magazine, and would no more go into another nearby ramen shop to get their noodles in downtown Yokohama than I would line up for two hours to get mine. The truth is that Japanese poeople just love lining up. Banks, post offices, elevators, town halls, ticket offices and restaurants of all kinds...wherever it can be done, the locals will be out there, enjoying the 'group' atmosphere and the imagined purposefulness of it. Mostly single men here too. Poor bastards

It is a curious phenomenon. Originating from a natural inclination to accept being ordered about, and combined with almost endless patience, Lining Up is the inevitable result. Not only is a decent reason not required, sometimes no reason at all: it often happens that people will join a street queue, several blocks long, without having any idea what they are lining up for, on the grounds that 'it must be interesting'. I have seen this. In a society where there is essentially very little to do, this makes sense.