Tokyo Citizenship and Ball Lesson


Suddenly, an image came to us from Japan – a lesson in citizenship. Proof of how football, even as a passion, can be a healthy madness. At midnight, on the 23rd of November, the (perhaps) most famous crossing in the world became, as usual, a human torrent. But that night, more than that happened.

Every day, for three minutes, 8 traffic lights stop traffic and thousands and thousands and thousands of people occupy the 5 pedestrian crossings leaving 5 streets, at Shibuya Crossing, the central intersection of Tokyo.

One of the five walkways is longitudinal, seeming to add a touch of risk to that perfect organization. But hardly anyone wanders off the five immense moles: you don’t set a foot outside the five paths outlined in black and white, the asphalt and the law.

The precision of the crowd is so unusual that countless photos of it have spread as an image of Japan. They are many and orderly, we all know. They are strength, but also the delicacy of respecting the other.

There is so much beauty in it, that Lost in Translation (2003), an iconic film about a foreign look at Tokyo, had the protagonist Scarlett Johansson crossing the Shibuya Crossing, while the windows of a building projected walking brontosaurs. Message: the respect of the Japanese for order is prehistoric, atavistic, it is in their DNA.

And that’s how we come to this November 23rd, around midnight Tokyo time. The referee had just whistled the end of the Germany-Japan game at the World Cup. And the old definition of Gary Lineker, a good English striker and even more accurate phraser, had not happened: “Football is a simple game. 22 players chase the ball and in the end Germany wins.”

This Wednesday, Japan won in the end! A country very passionate about football, but with a selection without great evidence given. And it’s not that Japan has now beaten Germany, the usual candidate for champion!

Shibuya Crossing has gone crazy – central Tokyo never sleeps and around that neighborhood teem izakaya (bars) and nightclub where karaoke is sung, in addition to being close to one of the central train stations.

Japan won and the crowd jumped for the cross.

This time not just for the crosswalks, always so respected, but for the entire confluence of 5 streets, a Shibuya transformed into a tasty mess of scrambled eggs, Japanese hugging and crying with joy. As the video shows. Like us, so many times, at Marquês de Pombal or at Aliados, football freaks.

As a though, in Tokyo. That tense, “the crowd jumped,” is misspelled. That’s right: the crowd jumped. I jumped during the three minutes that the 8 traffic lights at the Shibuya intersection allowed…

Afterwards, the green signaled the last few seconds “(…) 5-4-3-2-1-0”, and the beautiful freaks returned the center to the cars and went back to the sidewalks. The red ended and they returned to the asphalt for another three minutes. Three minutes of epileptic dancing of blissful, civilized happiness, and the rest of civics. Glory to football.

If I were a councilor or a teacher I would show this video left and right.


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