Aug 14 2011

the eleventh week

I know I promised to write about climbing Fuji San. But I underwent something else which I simply need to write about…

It is the weekend and I’m meeting with Andreas, one of my school friends who studied Japanese studies and has lived for some years here in Saitama, one of Tokyo’s neighbouring prefectures. As we both are passionate freaks (video game players) we indulge our hobby in the shops/stores of Akihabara. After a long strenuous but satisfying saunter we are setting off for home. At the station of Omiya we part company and I sit down on a chair on the platform for the trains to Kawagoe.

The train towards Tokyo on the opposite platform is approaching. It is honking loudly and stops prematurely. I’m looking at the waiting people on our platform. A throng is forming at the level of the driver’s cab. Parents are taking their children by their hands and pulling them hastily out of the crowd dragging them towards the escalators towards the exits. I’m getting up and approach the crowd. Their views are staring at a spot below the train. Some women are turning away with shocked faces covering their mouths. Now I’m grasping what just has happened. A man, hard to recognise, perhaps between 50 and 60 is lying torpidly and blood-smeared below the train on the concrete ground between the rails.

Station Omiya

Station Omiya

How I am supposed to act? Is he still alive? I’m taking a closer look. Yes, he is breathing. Before one can help here and climb into the shaft you should make sure that the track on your side is closed. Because the train for Kawagoe should come in at any second. Suddenly a consistent and almost deafening alarm shrills and simultaneously all pilot lights are turning red. A clear sign that all tracks are closed now and no trains can enter any more. Still nobody jumps into the shaft to help. Even I feel insecure. In contrast to an unsecured accident scene on a road here are railway workers in place who are trained for such incidents after all.

The man is lying on his side and starts to move. He is trying to raise his arm. The people are frantically shouting something to him. Now he is trying to move his legs as well. Every part of his body is moving a bit. So luckily he does not seem to be paraplegic. Also, and as far as I could tell, he did not lose any limbs. However the pool of blood surrounding him unfurled relatively fast, a flag of mourning not easily ignored. Why does it take so long until somebody gets here with a stretcher or for some of the railway workers to get into the shaft to finally pull the man out under the train? Only after almost ten minutes a man with a stretcher appears. Now passengers are climbing into the shaft and coming running by to help. A not benign undertaking as it can be seen quite quickly. The condensing water of the trains air conditions formed a puddle on the slick concrete floor and a coming by passenger slips in the ooze. Luckily he isn’t falling onto the hard rails.

After twenty minutes the man is being heaved by numerous helpers and railway workers with the stretcher onto the platform.

It takes a further ten minutes and the train is being pulled up and now takes up the whole lengths of the stations track. Almost as nothing had happened it is being dispatched and leaves the station towards Tokyo. Now police officers are beginning to document the situation. Witness statements are being taken. It wasn’t an accident it was a suicide attempt.

everything is being recorded

everything is being recorded

Unfortunately even such moments are part of Tokyo’s daily routine. It sounds macabre but even for suicide a kind of “codex” seems to exist here. And as ironic as it may sound most Japanese people abide by it. One does not kill her or himself during the rush hour because you don’t want to interfere with too many people on their daily commute. I asked several Japanese people if this is supposed to be a bad joke or if it was really true. In fact a lot of people who are taking their own lives here are following this “rule.” I don’t know what to make of this. And I don’t know what I am supposed to feel today. Consternation? Be glad that he survived? Wonder about the contradiction that a lot of Japanese people abide by the rules even when committing suicide… It is simply an inconceivable experience and I might need some time to understand it.

shocked faces

shocked faces

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