Extracts from my an unpublished book on my cultural experiences in Japan.
My life here has been rich, but the country seemed determined to make me regret leaving. I was drafting a letter - which would form the basis for this chapter - in my head one afternoon on the way into Sannomiya when, on boarding the train, I found that the driver had left the blind up between his compartment and ours. I'd never seen this before and spent the trip watching both the driver and the person standing beside him, who appeared to be a trainee. Every twenty seconds or so, the driver would raise his gloved right hand, making a gun beside his ear, then drop it down to shoot at some undefined target. I might have thought that he was doing it for fun, but the man next to him was only fractionally behind in doing the same thing. As I watched more closely, I thought I could see some pattern - they were doing it whenever they passed a numbered yellow sign on the side of the track. After every third time or so, the driver would check his watch, run his finger down a schedule taped to his window and snap his finger at the air as if mentally checking an item off a list. This, I realised, was their method for keeping the train on schedule, and perhaps to keep the drivers awake. I wondered if they'd opened the blind for my benefit. It was as if some higher power said "we'll make him realise he doesn't know everything about this country!"