On Wiping

Tokyo has its ways of doing things, and as much as it will welcome The New, there is no automatic supersession of The Old. Certainly, the encroachment of the digital into daily life need not usurp the basic dignities of physical presence, such as cleanliness or well-mannered comportment.

So it is that with the advent of touch-screen video-games in the arcades, Tokyo was well prepared with suction-cupped pots holding cleaning cloths. These had already proven their butlerly efficiency and discretion in service alongside Automated Teller Machines in Japanese banks. Their suitablility to uphold the decency of the arcade game terminal was obvious and their recruitment to the task immediate.

As a patron of the video-gaming arcade, it would indeed be proper manners to wipe the screen after playing, but the cloth’s purpose is about not so much the actual wiping as the potential to do so. The gentleman enjoying a video-game of an evening would prefer not to be obliged to consider the cleanliness or otherwise, or indeed the existence, of the patron who has preceded him. Indeed his own cleanliness (or otherwise – in frankness, we should include the possibility) is a topic it would be unbecoming to address (outside of such a private missive as this).

The wipe pot is not, therefore, for the customer, a tool with which to achieve cleanliness; rather, it is a sign that cleanliness has not been forgotten and that the establishment in which one finds oneself can be trusted.

No matter how shitty a dump it might otherwise appear to be.

Photographer and writer covering Tokyo arcade life – the videogames, the metropolis and the people