Whenever I’m working in my “main” in Shibuya, I’m passing by this bench inside Shibuya station, in the hall between the Hikarie building and the entrance to the Fukutoshin and Denentoshi lines.
Behind the bench is a “hole” to the outside but it’s still protected from rain. This bench serves more or less three purposes and they reflect some aspects of the Japanese society.
In the evening, the bench is often used by “rich” but exhausted shoppers, who are coming out of the Hikarie building with its shopping malls. They sort through their shopping and rearrange it to protect it from damage during the crowded subway ride ahead.
In the morning though, when I pass it going to the office before the shopping mall opens, it’s frequented by “the working poor” homeless people who use it as a resting point. These kind of working poor people have lost their homes and they might sleep outside or in manga cafes if they have the money and who are desperate to “look respectable”, since they have jobs or are hunting for them. You can identify them as homeless though by their amount of luggage in form of rucksacks and often used plastic bags, not the fancy paper bags you receive when you shop inside Hikarie.
Since the station is frequented by guards who shush them away, they cannot make the bench a more permanent spot of residence but wait there until the town starts with its business and they can join in on the hunt for a job and a better life.
A third “group” using that bench is the heartbroken. I have seen several young couples sitting on that bench who looked like they were breaking up with one of the two crying.
The working poor homeless people and the couples breaking up make it a quite sad bench and for me it has become a symbol for being lost and lonely in the jungle of a big city. Notice the empty cup ramen next to the bench that surely one of the working poor homeless people left behind.
If I were a poet, I’d write a poem about that bench, but so it’s become a blog entry. Either way, the contrast between rich shoppers and the working poor remains.