I don't think I'm a big city girl. I love it whenever I travel and go on holidays to big cities with their skyscrapers, sparkling lights and all the people and traffic! But to live there, I think, is not my cup of tea. Philippa Fogarty from BBC News described Perth as a "lifestyle city, with a long coastline and the Swan river running through it" (you can find the article here) and from the statistics below, you can really see how spacious and, I suppose, luxurious Perth is.
Tokyo being the capital city, is one of the larget cities in Japan. As of 2013, the population of Tokyo was estimated to be 13.189 million, 10% of Japan's population. The population density is said to be 6,029 persons per square kilometer (statistics from Japan Metropolitan Government).
In comparison to this, Greater Perth's population as recorded in 2012 sits at 1.90 million people with a population density of 1.0 persons per square kilometer (check ABS for more detailed statistics). The vast difference between the two cities is astounding!
I don't know if it's because I'm older now and I'm much more aware of my surroundings and the way people behave (especially given my four years in Psychology) or is it because with every new generation, manners and social etiquette, care for others and plain empathy is no longer as important as it was when I was younger. I feel that this is a trend that can be seen worldwide but especially more so in highly populated areas.
When we were in Tokyo for two weeks, riding the subway everyday and walking the crowded streets, we saw and experienced some things that really shocked us and made us reassess our and other peoples' behaviour.
Standing for elders or those that need a seat much more than oneself on public transport, or anywhere, for that matter, is something that everyone is taught as a child. It's social etiquette that crosses cultures and countries and I think is universal. Or so it should be. It makes me unbearably sad to even type this out now, but it happens less often that you would think.
There were more times than I can count where the trains were crowded, and older people were left standing and people would avoid their gazes and feign ignorance. Words cannot describe how flabbergasted I was to witness this. On several occasions, we stood to allow elders to take a seat and the surprise and gratitude they showed to us breaks my heart. At first, some would politely decline but we were adamant that they take a seat and they would then thank us with genuine gratitude. But my question is: Is this act so uncommon that people are filled with gratitude when we do stand for them?
There came a point when I decided I was just done with this overpopulated city. This happened when I was walking from the subway and about to get onto an escalator. Just before I got on, I was cut off by a man that looked to be in his late twenties. We were coming from different directions but going the same way but he decided that in his rush, he didn't care if he rammed me, a stranger to him, out of the way to get on to the escalator first. He literally pushed me aside with his shoulder and I had to take a step back to avoid falling over. I seethed and fumed and raved. Did that really save him some time? Did he really make it any earlier to his destination by cutting me off and pushing me out of the way? Did he simply not care if he hurt someone?
Looking out from the Skytree really made solid our ideas how many millions of people there really are in Tokyo. Looking out into this vast city, you can understand that with so many people in that world, with the constant fight for space and resources, people learn to look after themselves and forget to care about others. After all, it's a basic human instinct; survival. Who cares about the other people, about the elderly. I feel tired, I want to rest my legs. I need to get to my destination and I don't care who I hurt on the way. To some people, the inner comfort of the conscience doesn't outweigh the physical comfort.
Or is it apathy? Perhaps some people really just don't care. And don't get me wrong, I love Japan and so much of the culture. I found the majority of people to be very polite, lovely and friendly. But only when we engaged with them. It felt like if they don't engage with you directly, they seem to have no qualms about treating others indifferently, or dare I say, badly.
In just two weeks, we felt lost in the sea of crowds. The experience made us feel so blessed to live in the vast land of Australia, in a small city like Perth where we don't have to participate in this fast paced lifestyle with a constant throng of people. It must be so lonely to be lost in amongst the masses of people, never knowing anyone or caring about anyone. But despite the changing times, the crowds and the selfish people in the world, we can't lose the part of us that care. When you do a good thing, it's good for you and your soul. When you care, you can make a difference.