A short vignette to begin.
I was out for a walk a few nights back. I'd spent the entire day procrastinating at home and was suffering from cabin fever, so I decided to take a stroll. It's already quite warm here in Tokyo, even in the evening, and there's a pleasant calm to the city at night that's a far cry from the often manic bustle of midday.
I was close to the boundary of Shibuya and Shinjuku wards, not too far from Nishi-Shinjuku-5-chome, when I saw a taxi pull up just before the lights on a small two-lane road that intersects Yamate-dori, one of the main North-South roads on the west side of the city. There were three guys in the taxi; all young, all dressed in business attire - two in the back and one in the front. One of the guys in the back got out and came round to the front passenger-side window. At first I thought he was getting off there and was giving money to his friend in front. Not so. It became evident that the guy in the front seat was rather the worse for wear. I wondered if maybe he was a new staff member at his company (April is hiring season) and he'd gone out for welcome drinks with coworkers and had more than his fill. Whoever he was, his friend/coworker helped him out and transferred him to the back seat, perhaps so that someone could keep an eye on him and prevent him from vomiting on the dashboard.
This story doesn't really go anywhere (bear with me), except that something struck me as odd in a nice sort of way at around the moment I realised the guy in front was wasted. The taxi driver was rubbing his arm in a manner that I can only describe as affectionate. It seemed to go against my conception of taxi driver's in Japan formed over two and a half years of them cutting in front of me, or pulling in halfway towards the kerb to let a passenger in or out without drawing close enough to get out of the way. I suppose it's natural in a service nation like Japan for taxi drivers to treat their customers well, but I was surprised to see this simple act of physical contact, which seemed to go over and above what I would expect, especially towards someone who at any moment threatens to turn the inside of your taxi a dirty cream colour.
Anyway, with the passenger switcheroo completed, they passed the taxi passed the lights and headed off south, the other rear-seat passenger holding up a plastic bag in front of his sloshed friend's face.