Check out this ad for the 2016 Tokyo Game Show in the latest issue of V-Jump:
At the top it says “Tokyo Game Show 2016, Special area that only middle schoolers and younger can enter!” What’s more, those in elementary school and younger get in to the entire game show for free.
There’s something about this I find funny. I mean, Tokyo Game Show (TGS) is a really big event, one of the largest games expos in the world, and is held on the outskirts of Tokyo, the largest city in the world. And gaming tends to have a certain image, or at least those dedicated enough to attend an expo certainly would have a bit of an otaku stereotype attached to them. Yet here is this huge geek convention full of delinquency inducing video games and semi-controversial booth babes telling kids to navigate the cyberpunk metropolis that is Tokyo to enter a fun zone with the latest video games where adults are banned but kids get in free. And they’ll even take out a full page ads to promote it. It really has a bit of a Pied Piper or Pinocchio’s Pleasure Island feel to it.
Of course, what it really reminds me of is this excerpt from “Confucius Lives Next Door,” in which the author moves his family to Tokyo for work in the 90s, and begins to realize the practical effects of all those low Japanese crime statistics:
“I can almost pinpoint the moment when I realized that standard American city precautions need no longer be part of our daily life. It was a Tuesday night, not long after we had arrived in Tokyo. At the dinner table, our fourth-grader, Kate, announced happily that next Saturday she was going to Tokyo Disneyland with her new pal Watanabe Mariko. ‘Just the two of us,’ she said proudly.
Katie was so excited at the idea that it was impossible for a parent to do anything but smile and say ‘Sounds great!’ But my wife and I exchanged one of those meaningful glances that asks ‘Are we going to let her do this?’ After dinner, we started thinking it over.
Just the two of them? To Tokyo Disneyland? But that’s a ninety-minute trip one way, we thought. The girls would have to ride three different trains to get there, three more coming home, and stand around in all those big stations waiting to change trains. And they were ten years old.
Trying to conceal my concern, I called Mariko’s mother.
‘Oh, yes, how nice to talk to you,’ she said. ‘I understand our girls are going to Tokyo Disneyland together.’ ‘Are you going with them, Watanabe-san?’ I asked. ‘Why, no,’ the mother said, with a tone in her voice that mingled surprise and confusion. ‘Okay,’ I responded. ‘Then I’ll ride out there with them on the trains, and bring them back.’ Mrs. Watanabe was clearly puzzled. ‘You’ll ride with them?’ she asked. ‘Why?’
WHY? I wanted to shout at this dense woman. Why? Because they’re two ten-year-old girls, that’s why! Because you’re going to have them travel ninety minutes each way, through a teeming urban center of 27 million strangers, and they won’t come home until after dark, and they have to change trains at three different crowded stations, and who knows how many strange men might be hanging around in those stations, and theymightgetrobbedormuggedorrappedorsomething!
But then I started thinking about her question. Why? Why should I have to ride on the train with my ten-year-old? As long as the girls knew which trains to take-and Mariko was evidently a veteran of trips to Tokyo Disneyland-there was nothing to be afraid of. This was a society where you did not have to live with the fear of crime, where you did not have to worry when two ten-year-olds set off to travel all day around a city of 27 million people. So yes, in the context of daily life for the Watanabe family-and for every other family in Tokyo-Mrs. Watanabe’s question was perfectly sensible. Why would I need to ride the train with these two girls?”