When I left my hometown for Tokyo and started living by myself there in the mid 80’s, quite a few second-run theaters for movies still remained. Those theaters showed two or three films at the price of one new film. The best experience of mine was when I saw ‘Top Gun’, ‘Taps’ and ‘Back to the Future’ as an all-night triple feature program at a second-run theater in a suburb of Tokyo. Those films were already a bit old by then and the show time was the middle of the night, so that the price was incredibly low accordingly. I left my apartment at night, ate out for dinner, got hamburgers to have inside the theater and was immersed into the movie world until dawn. The main attraction for me had been ‘Top Gun’ that turned out to be so-so. Instead, I was deeply moved by ‘Back to the Future’ although I had thought it would be a silly 50’s comedy judging from its trailer. The film became my best one and had held that position for many years to come.
Back then, I had just moved to Tokyo to become a musician in spite of all the opposition from my family and friends. I had been feeling unsettled constantly because of anxiety and loneliness, which stemmed from uncertainty of my future. I had been clueless about whether I would be successful as a musician and how my life would unfold itself. I saw ‘Back to the Future’ in that state of mind and the story and the ending of the film encouraged me immensely.
When I lived in my hometown with my family, many rules bound me. To begin with, that all-night movie experience was a dream within a dream since my curfew was as early as 9 p.m. Other rules were abundant. Singing while eating was forbidden, a gap between the body and the edge of the table must not exist during the meal, whistling or playing the piano after dark was prohibited, some ways of talking to my grandparents were banned, walking with audible steps inside the house wasn’t allowed, chewing something in the mouth in public was regarded as an act of barbarity, and so on and on. But once I began to live by myself, I was freed from all the family rules and everything was left to my discretion. I ate what I wanted, when I wanted. I woke up when I felt like it, since I didn’t work at an office. I slept until evening at times, and rarely cleaned or did the dishes. The bathroom got moldy. While I appreciated freedom, I realized how slack I really was. My music career didn’t go well either. I had expected I could find my band members easily as Tokyo was the biggest city in Japan where so many aspiring musician gathered from all parts of Japan. The reality was Tokyo simply had too many bad unmotivated musicians. It was extremely hard to find a member whom I desired and my band just kept breaking up. That was far from what I had planned as life in Tokyo. I sometimes got tempted to doubt if my decision to come here was the right one even though I hadn’t had any other choice.
When I finished to see the movies all night and left the theater, it was early morning in the real world. I headed back for my apartment. The train had started running and many commuters were walking hurriedly and gloomily toward the station already. They used the train bound for downtown that was an opposite direction to where I was going. I was waiting on the empty platform for my train while watching them waiting on the nearly overflowing platform. When their train came, they pushed and crammed themselves into the cars. The station workers additionally pushed their backs from outside to squeeze as many passengers as possible in and the train doors barely closed. Minutes after it departed, the platform got filled with commuters quickly again. I stepped in the empty opposite train and yawned in the seat, remembering ‘Back to the Future’. When I decided to live by myself in Tokyo that was a far and unknown big city, I was afraid and trembled for what my life was going to be like. I gave up my right to an inheritance by leaving my family, and a possible steady income by quitting college. I was alone by parting from my family and my friends who disagreed and didn’t support me mentally. I threw away everything which wasn’t easy for me. But as Marty’s father dared, I had dared in my own way and left for Tokyo. I hoped that action of mine changed my future. In a good way, I wished.
The tiny close community of a small village used to be the whole world for me who was born to a farming family living in a rural area of Japan. The sole window to the outside world was TV through which I had encountered what I had never seen in my daily life.
Back in those days, Japanese TV dramas were made and shot in the capital city of Japan, Tokyo. The city view and the people’s way of living in Tokyo looked so cool. Everything from fashion to lifestyle was completely different from things in Kyoto where I lived. On TV, Tokyo seemed like a future world decades ahead to me. I was hooked by one particular weekly crime drama which was shot on location all around Tokyo. Every location looked as if it had been in a Western country and the detectives in the drama were extremely stylish. I was absorbed in seeing that exotic world every week and had spent the other six days of the week waiting for the drama. As soon as I finished watching that show, I would rush into my room and write out the entire show in the notebook. I reproduced all the lines of characters and all the settings by depending on my memory. Since there was no way to record a TV program as a video cassette recorder was yet to come, I read my notebook over and over again to watch it inside my head until the next show was on air. In hindsight, the world of TV dramas was fictional which didn’t exist even in Tokyo, but I was too young to realize that.
Years went by and I became a musician. By the time two years have passed since I joined my first band, the band not only had played gigs around Kyoto but also had made guest appearances and had our songs played on local radio shows from time to time. We had made some connections with music producers who came down to the western part of Japan from Tokyo as judges for some live contests. However, our progress was limited because all the major music labels of Japan were based in Tokyo. My partner and I began to consider moving our base to Tokyo as we were geographically too far off to make a career in music.
Moving to Tokyo was a big deal to me. While I seldom attended, it meant I would quit college once and for all. As a much more serious matter, an old Japanese custom didn’t allow a successor of the family, that was me, to leave home. For me, leaving home meant abandoning my family and all the privileges. Although it seemed crazy to throw away everything when I had no idea how to live on as a musician in Tokyo, I felt living there would be better than staying in my family’s home for the rest of my life. I preferred eating hamburgers and french fries from McDonald’s to eating home-grown vegetables from my family’s fields every single day. I knew it wouldn’t be healthy, but at least I would be able to eat what I chose, when I wanted. To sum up, moving to Tokyo was all about freedom. I was more than willing to jump into the free world where I would make all choices by myself instead of the old fixed rules and customs.
Oddly enough, things went unexpectedly smoothly once I made up my mind to move to Tokyo. Various kinds of obstructions that had been seemingly difficult to be cleared resolved themselves almost magically. The moving day arrived sooner than I had imagined.
I was waiting for the bullet train bound for Tokyo on the platform in Kyoto Station. A friend of mine came to see me off. She was surprised that she was the only one for me there. “Even your parents don’t see you off?” she sounded bewildered. I wondered what awaited me in the outside world of my window. I was both looking forward to it and afraid.
As I recall it, a ticket vending machine first appeared in the early 80’s at the nearest train station from my home in Japan where I grew up. There had been two ticket windows one of which was replaced with the machine. It was an exciting new gizmo especially for children that spewed out a train ticket by just pushing a button corresponded to the destination. The ticket gate was still operated by a clerk. The ticket examiner stood in an open booth with special clippers in his hand. Passengers would show the commuter pass to him, or have the ticket clipped by his clippers to get a hole or a nick on it. The examiner handled clippers skillfully, clipped tickets one after another so fast and rhythmically. When passengers broke off, he would turn clippers many times in his hand artfully as if he had been a juggler. Later on, the ticket booth was also replaced by the automatic ticket gate.
In those days, more and more vending machines had emerged here and there in Japan. They started with coffee and soft drinks, then cigarettes and beer. Soon pornographic magazines and condoms, hamburgers and noodle soup were all purchasable from the machine.
Nowadays, ordering at restaurants has been by a touch screen on the table, and check-out counters at the supermarket have been self-service registers. Either at a restaurant or a supermarket, I pay an incorrect total once in two or three visits when human servers and cashiers take care the payment and make a mistake. I know the odds because I look into the receipt very carefully right after the payment each and every time. Almost in every case I don’t gain but overpay, which is a mystery, so that I claim at once. I understand I myself induce their mistakes by using every possible coupon and discount promotion in one payment that makes my total so complicated. When a machine handles service in place of a human, it’s fast, convenient, clean and no mistakes. But on the other hand, no small talk or smiles are a little tasteless. Even so, machines may fit better for me since I often get annoyed with people too easily.
The day that machines take up most jobs of humans’ might arrive sooner than expected. If it happened, the government would pay the people a basic income by taxing companies. Is it possible that people don’t have to work? For the first time after the ancient times, humans would get liberated from money at long last. Everybody could live by doing what they want. I’m eagerly looking forward to seeing that day come. I’m strongly hoping. And I believe in a miracle as such.