Sunday, September 9, 2007

Kermit and Sleeping Beauty on the train...

Looking at rural Japan from a train window yesterday it reminded me of Kermit the Frog, (without the ping pong ball eyes and banjo) . The rice fields were literally bursting with bright green grains that are about to be harvested, looking like a giant green patchwork quilt had been spread over the country side. A Kermit quilt.
As the train clicked on to the next station, and the next and the next, and the next and the next, we cut a path through the quilt on our way back to Kyoto, via Himeji, and smoke plumes from the burn offs rose from Kermit`s hide here and there.

It was a beautiful late summer evening, the train was full of people, and as we were too slow (or was it that we didn`t care as much?) we had to stand - wide legs and bendy knees , while people in seats slept or read or joined the staring out the window at the growing shadows on the mountains. There always seems to be a lot of time to look out of a train window, perhaps because it travels straight for so long, and has that rhythmic 4/4 beat to keep you ensconced. Then, as the beat starts to slow, and the nasally voice informs people of the train`s next station, you snap back into the fact that you`re actually in a tin can with any number of other people, all lost in thought like you, all with a different story.

It was a long trip from Okayama to Himeji on the local train, but we passed the time with word games (can you think of a Simpsons character for every letter of the alphabet?), and by watching various entertaining scenarios unfolding in the seats in front of us, as so often happens in this crazy country.

One example of a common train occurrence is people trying not to fall asleep on strange shoulders, and there was one particular episode of this ongoing drama that kept us amused for a good portion of our journey. A woman with a thousand yard stare had taken a seat next to a young guy with an i-pod and promptly fallen asleep. She then began to slowly but surely drop onto this poor guy`s shoulder, who admirably did his best to avoid her affections by leaning forward in his seat. Bad move. Her sleepy head failed to stop as there was no longer a shoulder for it to land on, and much to i-pod`s controlled disbelief she gradually disappeared behind his back! He then coughed and rustled a plastic bag in an attempt to rouse her, which it did. For approximately 10 seconds, after which she began her decline again, her head again disappearing behind i-pod`s back almost like it was a second hand on a clock counting down from 10 -9-8-7-6... Watching this was at once the most painful and amusing part of our train ride, as this guy was obviously too nice, too polite to do anything about it.

However after about twenty minutes (yes twenty minutes!!) he had finally had enough, and made a move to sit back in his seat, and started to read his book, with his elbows stuck out in a posture that looked like someone had paused him while he was doing the chicken dance. Luckily for i-pod, she seemed to get the message after this, and then lo and behold we`d arrived in Himeji. Funny the things that pass our time.