I’ve been breaking out all my old kiddie books to read to Microkhan Jr., an experience that has taught me a lot about the formative images that shaped my worldview—sometimes to horrifying effect. One that jumped out at me the other day was from Richard Scarry’s Busy, Busy World. It purports to depict the demoralizing life of a Tokyo commuter, complete with those infamous subway pushers who cram salarymen onto the rush-hour trains. The Scarry drawing uses pigs instead of people, which makes for a disconcerting finished product—almost as if the passengers are being hauled to the slaughterhouse rather than office buildings.
As a result of that supposedly whimsical image, I developed a longstanding fascination with the travails (both real and imagined) of Japanese mass-transit users. Apparently I’m not the only one.