If I were less paranoid, I’d probably get to sit down more often. I’d also be a lot more calm.
The other day, before the party where I ran into former students, I decided I needed some coffee and something sweet right after I arrived in Ikebukuro. I therefore went to the Cafe du Monde for coffee and beignets. (Although this is a cliche thing to do if you’re in New Orleans, in Tokyo it counts as cross-cultural contamination, or something like that.)
When I walked in, there were a handful of tables available. My gut and experience told me that I should drop my bag off on one of the tables, but my paranoid self said “Are you insane?” My gut and experience said that the bag would be fine if I left it. My paranoid self It pointed out there was no line so I was probably safe. My gut and experience said “Are you insane?”
By the time I got my coffee and my flag, the chairs had been claimed by other people’s bags.
This is a common occurrence in Japan and is not considered rude. There may be a dozen people in line ahead of you and only one table left, but the 13th person in line is allowed to claim the seat with a bag or a scarf. Even if it were safe to do this in most countries, I still consider it rude, especially if there’s a long line. It seems to me no different than cutting in line to get served first. However, in Japan they seem to assume that you’re smart enough to know how to reserve your seat and have probably already done so. If you’re not smart enough, then, well, stand.
The only seats available in Cafe du Monde that afternoon were in the smoking section. I stood around waiting for a table. I was quietly swearing under my breath. (Yes, believe it or not, quietly.) Luckily, one of the staff asked around and someone removed his bag from a chair he’d been using as bag storage and I got a seat.
I had a lot of time to kill so I stayed around for a while. I got to see several tables open up and immediately get occupied by bags. I quietly swore at each person who did that.