‘On The Go’ is a new feature for Counterpoint Magazine, a beautifully risograph-printed magazine bringing together independent journalism and illustration. For issue #14 ‘Eating’ I explored the Japanese relationship with eating while walking in the streets.
Illustration by Anne Pomel.
It is a pretty common sight around town in the early mornings. One of these things that we don’t question but accept as a given. People on their way to work, sleepwalking to the day’s first appointment, the early gym session or university lecture. Takeaway cup in one hand, pastry or morning roll in the other. As our lives become increasingly more hectic, demanding to squeeze more and more things into the 24 hours we’re left with each day, prioritising is sometimes the only way that makes us get through it all. Inevitably, the quick brekkie on-the-go provides us with that extra half an hour for the project you were probably meant to finish two days ago.
What seems like a nuance to the occidental mind is something out of the ordinary on the other side of the globe. In Japan, you wouldn’t just grab a quick bite from your local convenience store and strut down the pavement, munching away on a delicious green tea Mochi. It just doesn’t happen. More often than not, you’d see people taking their snack or drink to a local park or opting for the countless vending machines greeting at literally every street corner and hang around until they’re done with their business. Things might have become more lenient especially among the younger generation, but eating while walking out on the streets is still considered impolite by many – even in times of globalisation and Japanese societal change. Surely enough, nobody will actually tell you off for stuffing your face and dodging collisions at the same time, but rest assured, it’s pretty easy to earn a disapproving frown from the natives.
If you wonder why that is at all, looking at a particular Japanese saying might help you out. ‘Ikkai ichi dousa’ means ‘one thing at a time’ and beautifully illustrates a main pillar of Japanese manners: The pursuit for slow and conscious living you will even find at the heart of a frenetic and bustling metropolis like Tokyo or Osaka. So instead of optimising our days in favour of productivity and efficiency, maybe we should all do every single thing with utmost attention and gratitude and leave the next for later? Just eat. Just talk. Just listen. Make every little thing count. Doesn’t seem such a bad thing to do.
You can buy the issue here.