Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Where's a "Free Speech Zone" When You Need One?

I'm currently sitting at the St-Marc Cafe at the base of the giant gray Yodobashi Camera building (home of the best store on the planet).  I had some time to kill before meeting up with one of my new Japanese friends for a combo dinner/language lesson so I figured catch up on some blogging while enjoying the pre-typhoon breeze.

There used to be an Excelsior Cafe here in pretty much the same general location.  I used to go there a lot when I lived in Osaka because it was one of the few coffee shops that had outside seating.

I always remembered it as being a great place to sit and write in my journals.  Made me feel like a travel writer.  Plus, because there was a nice view of the exit of Osaka Station, the people-watching was always top-notch. After I returned to America, I used to think about how nice it would be able to sit out here again.

Now that I'm here, I realize that I'd forgotten a few small details.

First, sitting at an outdoor cafe in Japan does not necessarily imply fresh air.  I forgot how much people smoke in this country!  Crazy smoke.  Like "about to be electrocuted for murder" smoking.  Each finished cigarette is punctuated with the click-snap-inhale of a Zippo lighting another one.

Then, there's the noise.  Remember that really cool entrance to Osaka Station? Gone. In its place, a giant twisted mass of construction.  So, I've now got busy intersection noise and train noise mixed in with construction noise.

Now, that in itself is not bad but, I kid you not, as soon as I opened up my laptop, one of those vans covered in loudspeakers that you only really see in old movies pulled up in front of the building.

What started out as an annoying announcement is now a full-fledged demonstration.  On top of the van is a small stage upon which politicians are now standing, taking turns giving long-winded speeches and god-knows-what.

I understand very little of it but they keep saying "Yodobashi Camera no mae" (which means "in front of Yodobashi Camera", although that seems rather obvious) and "M.V.P" (which means what you think it does but, in Japanese, it comes out as "emmu-bee-pee").

It's a level of annoying which I'd forgotten existed. (Perhaps that's why everyone here smokes?)

I'm trying different styles of music on my iPod to drown it out but no luck.

On top of that, I thought there might be an internet connection here but still, no luck.

I mean, it's only at the base of a giant electronics store...

No comments: