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Thursday, Nov. 26, 2009

WORDS TO LIVE BY

Cable guy Yasushi Sano


Yasushi Sano, 30, is a "cable guy" living and working in Tokyo. By his estimates, over the past six years, he has installed cable TV into about fives homes a day, averaging 25 hook-ups a week, 100 a month and 1,200 a year, bringing quality entertainment into a total of 7,200 households. Sano's passion for all things electronic was triggered at a young age, and audio systems and TV sets continue to have a magnetic power over him. He's also a car enthusiast, and loves driving around Tokyo's famed elevated highways, mesmerized by the beauty of the urban landscape.

Yasushi Sano
Yasushi Sano JUDIT KAWAGUCHI PHOTO

Japanese might look Westernized but at home, we are still very Japanese. In about 90 percent of households people sit on the floor. Of course, they have a dining table with chairs, but the living room is set up so you can watch TV and lounge around the floor. Japanese can only relax with their shoes off, grounded, close to earth. And with a bowl of mikan (tangerines), of course.

Bad Japanese TV is great for business. Japanese TV channels all have the same dumb shows — except for the one super-great show called "Tamori Club" — so the population is so sick of the programming that everyone wants cable TV. Good for them and us!

When you are a freak, those around you turn into freaks, too. When you're nice, so is everyone else. When I used to be less polite or was in a negative mood, others picked it up and treated me the same way: badly. Just like pets behave the same way as the humans around them. I realized from experience that other people are our own mirrors. If I do a good job, everyone's nice to me. So when I enter a home, I start with a good, polite greeting and from that second, things are set in a positive tone. That's my job.

The idea that men must be muscled to be strong is passé. Power is in the mind, right? It's true that Japanese young men are not aggressive predators but more like cute and gentle puppies, yet this doesn't mean we are useless. And who doesn't love a puppy anyhow? I guess we look weak and wimpy, but we are not. The media refers to any guy who is young, skinny, single, cooks his own lunch and wears decent clothes, as so-shokukei dansei or "herbivore man." It feels bad to be categorized, but it's not the end of the world. Or is it? Veggies are good for health and the Earth!

Sometimes a cigarette is just a cigarette, but usually it's not. In the company, many guys and girls smoke so we gather around, light up and chat. I love that feeling of togetherness. It's like two girls going to the toilet together. You know they crack jokes and tell secrets. That's how smoking corners are for me. That's why I smoke, even though I hate the smell of cigarettes. But quitting will be my New Year's resolution, and now I'm not sure how and with what to replace that warm happy atmosphere around the ashtray.

Some dreams don't come true, but that's no reason not to dream. I love those movies where the cable guy or the postman rings the bell, some incredibly hot babe opens the door and the rest is X-rated. No, this has never happened to me, not yet. I met a few of these ladies, who wear see-through camisoles and lacy bras when I arrive, but I'm too scared to look at them. If I did check them out, they'd accuse me of sexual harassment so it's best to cast my eyes down and focus on hooking up the cables.

Electronic gadgets have too many functions, and not enough design appeal. I love cars, mobile phones and home appliances, but today's models are full of unnecessary functions. Even the TV remote control is beyond most people's ability. The makers' mission is impossible: Unless they include more functions, nobody buys anything new. But what we buy, we can't or don't need to use. It's time to go back to a simpler design that has just an on/off switch and a record button. What more do we really need?

Driving in Tokyo is like being the star in the coolest movie on Earth. The Tokyo highway called the Inner Circular Route is a wonder of Japanese innovation and architecture. Imagine driving on a highway, with layers of other freeways below and above you, twisting and turning like snakes, smack in the middle of downtown Tokyo, so close to buildings that you can see inside offices and homes. It's the most beautiful ride on Earth! I play music and keep going in circles for hours.

It's fun to walk in others' footsteps, and safe, too, especially if you don't know where you're going. I love maps and recently bought some from the Edo Period (1603-1867). In the early 19th century, Ino Tadataka spent 17 years walking around Japan surveying and making maps. I enjoy following roads that have been traveled over by many people for centuries. I feel the long history under my feet, below the surface, under the layers of asphalt, stones and dirt.

In Japan, men need more protection. When I take public transportation, I'm usually afraid because trains are crowded and as we are squeezed together, I worry that some woman will accuse me of touching her. Women pretend to be weak, but they hold all the power. Once a man is accused of being a chikan (groper), his life is over. It's tough to be man today!

Judit Kawaguchi loves to listen. She is a volunteer counselor and a TV reporter on NHK's "Out & About." Learn more at: http://juditfan.blog58.fc2.com/



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