–Originally written on June 2, 2004–
Asians, I am convinced, are the masters of commerce. Seoul was lively Tuesday night in the street markets, with merchants hawking their wares to large crowds of primarily young Korean women. Shoes, jewelry and Kwon changed hands constantly, while shoppers darted in and out of stores ranging from the local DVD/CD shop to the Tommy Hilfiger and The Body Shop boutiques. The lively markets of Asia simply cannot compete with anything I’ve ever witnessed anywhere else.
Arriving in Tokyo Wednesday afternoon, the anticipated culture shock never materialized. Instead, I was instantly reminded of the melodic nature of the Japanese language and its internal harmony. I watched the sun set over Tokyo from my room on the twenty-second floor before heading out for a brief walk to take the pulse of East Shinjuku, a playground that in some respects seems to rival Las Vegas. Certainly, in terms of brightness they’re on the same wavelength.
Perhaps the most pleasant surprise was the large number of young female office workers still heading home late at night with their male counterparts. While this definitely existed during previous visits, the trend seems to have increased. In truth, many young Japanese women in their mid-twenties have continued working, putting off marriage in many ways even longer than their counterparts in western countries. With marriage and childbirth less common, the average age of Japan’s population continues to increase.
Another indicator of the resurgent economic mood is the P-Index, standing for Prostitution and Pachinko. East Shinjuku was abuzz with men quite literally “pimping their hoes”, and their aggressiveness has increased immensely. Since my last trip here, I can’t recall so many non-Japanese actively soliciting the gaijin. During a fifteen minute walk I likely encountered at least ten different groups actively soliciting. While previous visits had Japanese men in control, the increase in number of gaijin actively soliciting came as quite a surprise. Indeed, perhaps even more impressive than the number of men was the young woman serving in the role of pimp, using English no less. And while the prostitution scene was active outside, the Pachinko parlors looked hopping inside. People are once again happily spending money.