Heart of Gold

I share the Metro with a host of men who uniformly wear white shirts, black suit trousers and a leather suitcase. I change my plans. I get off the train with them.

Nihombashi. Glass and concrete. Business Central.

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On the map I see that the Tokyo Stock Exchange is close by. A friendly guard addresses me without a word when I walk right through the front door. He shows me a sign-board. It depicts a rectangle with a cross at the lower side and an arrow that goes from there around the rectangle to its upper side. There I find the visitors entrance. I pass through a metal detector. The two young women at the desk do not speak English. At the Tokyo Stock Exchange? They hand me a visitors badge.

Pictures on the walls of the observation deck show a bustling trading area. That is history. Down in the trenches a few people are watching their screens.

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The whole room is … quiet.

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The heart of the number three economy in the world now apparently beats in virtual reality.

When I leave I see a notice on a board. The Bank of Japan offers a tour in English, once a week. It starts in one hour. I get there in time. Nice try. I have to make a reservation at least a week in advance. I need an address in Japan to send the ticket to. It has to be sent to me! I cannot fetch it at the office. With some friendly help I manage. At the day of the tour I have to bring my passport. There are only four of us. I wonder why.

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No pictures. We descend into the underground vault. We pass through a door that weighs 25 tons and is 90 cm thick. Our guide tells us, that the vault is no longer in use. No gold. No bank notes. Only props. What a shame. He gives us an excellent view on japanese history seen through the perspective of the bank. Very interesting, especially the darker parts, where the military needed money to buy weapons. The steel for the vault comes from the United States and the United Kingdom. A century ago Japan could not produce the necessary steel quality. According to our guide the building was the first in Japan with a flush toilet and the second with an elevator. It seems that money favours western values.

Next to the money are the shops.

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Helpful hands with white gloves. Black cars.

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The merchandise is meticulously arranged.

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I wonder what happened to the “lost decade”, the economic crisis that I heard so much about. Later I check with Wikipedia. The academic world seems to be divided about the issue. Some believe there is a crisis, some don’t. Well … virtual reality.

Just behind the entrance to one of the more luxurious shops well fed gold-fish swim in the crystal clear water of a huge glass bowl.

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This makes a nice metaphor.

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