Teaching In Socks


Under the Net of Bureaucracy
June 1, 2009, 4:41 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

I am trying to save up money and energy for my trip to Tokyo at the end of the month. This means I didn’t visit any new castles, get attacked by robots, or eat any interesting sea creatures. Thus, another week resigned to pulling substantive content for this blog out of the mundane.

Standard Tuesday Material

Standard Tuesday Material

Fortunately for me, Japan’s distinct personality and mores have the ability to turn even the most simple activities into a highly-shareable cultural anecdote.

For example, this past weekend my girlfriend and I went to play tennis in the public park. What would appear to be a fairly straightforward and routine event instead becomes another platform for the ungrateful foreigner within me.

I will preface this with, (and it may be unnecessary because I think this a well-known fact and certainly a motif of my experience), Japan loves rules and order. As a result, you often find yourself face to face with the bureaucratic machine when you least expect it. They can run cross country trains on time to the minute, but god forbid you want a tennis court on a Sunday afternoon.

Of course, I wanted a tennis court on a Sunday afternoon, thus I was forced to undertake the following standard protocol to obtain one:

First, call and make a reservation. For God’s sake, don’t just show up unannounced. There could be a tournament and you could wait hours. There might not even be a tournament but instead seemingly empty and playable courts are designated not to be used.

Once you have made a reservation and arrived at the park, proceed to the Park Office;  there you will be required to fill out a form providing them with your name, address, and phone number. You also have to pay 500 yen for court usage. In turn, you will receive a receipt for the reservation (and the 500 yen) printed on A4 (8.5 in x 11 in) paper and a confirmation sheet for your reservation, also on A4 size paper and stamped with two official Park Office seals.

You then have to walk the 200 yards to the Tennis Center (which is actually bigger than the park office, yet holds less park authority). Hand them your confirmation sheet, which they will examine and then assign you a court. Before proceeding to your court, you must to go to the net storage room to retrieve a net. This net must be carried down to the court, unfolded and strung.

Our reservation was a 5;oo, we began hitting balls at 5:22. Also, a court can only be reserved a for one hour.

After barely breaking a sweat playing, you are then required to take down the net and refold it to proper storage specifications. Also, since the courts are a sand-astroturf hybrid (emphasis on sand) so you have to brush the court for the next group.

As you can see, it’s quite an intricate hassle. While there’s a certain beauty to playing on a pristine, brushed court, with a fresh and plush net, it’s really a short-lived sensation.  It’s a bit much. Besides, wasn’t tennis invented by the French? Don’t they just light up cigarettes, find a field with string tied up and complain while smacking a ball around? Isn’t that what tennis is really about?

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