Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Useful at Being Useless


Courtesy of Tokyo Architecture


What stands before us on this calm winter day is nothing other than a scar on the face of this blessed country, a danger to all who come within sight of it. Men are callously, and without warning, slowly moving treacherous bricks on an evil sidewalk. What will we do? Where can we go to escape this menace? Who will save us...?

Japan has the answer. As I was walking to work along a relatively uncrowded street on a wide sidewalk in my quiet little mountain town, I see a little construction going on. No big deal. Clear reflective arrows showing where to go (as if you couldn't see the path). And yet... the city actually hired someone to direct "traffic" through this area.

In a major metropolitan area like Tokyo I suppose I could understand this, if the construction were significant enough and the people passing through numerous. But to have a man in my neck of the woods stand for twelve hours every day, doing nothing more than waving a flag? It's a joke.

An Englishman In Osaka had a recent story about these guys. They definitely are the answer for Japan's low unemployment figures. Them, and the superfluous people you see in the bureaucracy. I guarantee there are thousands of jobs in this country for doing nothing more than pointing people in the right direction.

When I visited China a few years ago I saw a similar approach to putting people to work. Tiananmem Square (天安門廣場) is kept spotlessly clean by dozens of Chinese people whose only job is to pick up every scrap of paper, every toothpick, every piece of kleenex in sight. Effective? Very. Efficient? No, but it certainly is a nice way of maintaining the touristy areas, giving a high opinion of Beijing to international visitors. People will take care of you, regardless of cost, regardless of time-management. Japan has this same hands-on approach.

Otsu kare sama des, construction guides. Save the children.

1 comment:

Niwajin said...

We always enjoy you pieces of work on the net, also about the construction gards. We have seen many of them, always friendly, waving into the right direction, so you wont fall into some kind of pit, get run over by a heavy truck or take the wrong way....