• Tokyo


There is a general hospital and a public high school within easy walking distance of my central Tokyo home. Every morning when I walk to the local subway station to begin my daily commute, I pass a stream of handsome teenagers heading toward the maw of the local school where their sports coaches are apt to beat them into submission while calling it “motivation.” In doing so, the students flow past the daily queue of elderly people awaiting admittance to the gullet of the outpatient clinic for their regular treatments.

I am never sure if what I am seeing is a symbiotic relationship or a parasitic one, or if anyone else sees it like I do. I see a river of youth destined/doomed to serve and support these elderly whom they pass with neither a glance nor a thought every morning. And I see a class of seniors who don’t think of themselves as parasites, but as champions justly receiving the rewards they were promised when they devoted their lives to Japan Inc. Maybe these outpatients cast resentful eyes toward the young with the conviction that youth has yet again been wasted on the wrong people. At the same time I see two organs of the state — school and hospital — with voracious appetites for human traffic at opposite ends of the age spectrum.

In their daily march to school, the young can see their future lined up with the aged outside the hospital doors. Maybe they will travel the world in their adult lives but still end up in the same queue in the same neighborhood where they once attended school.

grant piper

The opinions expressed in this letter to the editor are the writer’s own and do not necessarily reflect the policies of The Japan Times.