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the flag-wavers

A flag-waver in action. Or inaction, more like.

Japan has a fairly low unemployment rate compared to many industrialised nations, but the reason for this is plain to see. It's the flag-wavers.

Flag-wavers are usually elderly gentlemen who stand near construction sites, waving their flags at passing pedestrians and motorists to show them the way, in case they suddenly fail to see the road straight in front of them.

However, the construction boom of yesteryear is no more, but the flag-wavers remain. Only yesterday I found two such wavers, standing in the middle of a normal road that was undergoing no construction whatsoever.

They appeared lost and confused, without a sense of purpose, searching for a construction site, but finding nothing. So instead they decided to pitch up and direct traffic that didn't need directing. There are thousands of such wavers in Japan, not necessarily necessary, but they do keep the unemployment figures looking rosy.

As I was observing them yesterday, I managed to catch one piece of drama, which I have depicted in the photo story below.

THE FLAG-WAVERS - a photo story


Enjoy a 30-second video of two flag wavers going at it hammer and tongs.

the flag wavers on Vimeo
the flag wavers on YouTube
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On Saturday, 11 November, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said:

You have to say, thank goodness the second flag waver was there or obviously that van would have driven straight on into the train lines. These Japanese know something about traffic control.

In Taiwan they have Police with red flashing batons but it is needed, road signs tend to be seen as just advice rather than something to be taken seriously - so at dusk men with whistles and large red batons come out to play - sounds a little like Clapham common to me.  

On Saturday, 11 November, 2006, Blogger Marie said:

These jobs are giving retired people with small pensions a way to earn some extra money, and the dignity of having a job.:) Yes?  

On Sunday, 12 November, 2006, Blogger Citizen_Stu said:

Just imagine the disaster if they were not there  

On Monday, 13 November, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said:

Immediately after having a good giggle at the flag wavers one day, I came off my bicycle and landed in the road works they were there to warn me about, embedding gravel in the flesh of my hands and wrists. I reckon you should watch your karma in the next couple of days, Englishman in Osaka... I certainly have learnt my lesson and do my best to think nice gratitude filled thoughts every time I see them!  

On Monday, 13 November, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said:

Hmmmm, something is going on.
Yesterday I saw 3 flag wavers guiding traffic in and out of the car park at a Jusco. Normally, at this place there are just the two wavers.

Hmm, maybe it's just the changing population demographic. The higher the % of older folks, the more flag wavers!  

On Monday, 13 November, 2006, Blogger Will said:

Thanks for flagging that up.  

On Monday, 13 November, 2006, Blogger Brit said:

They have been told not to direct the gaijin!

Seriously the ones on Odori in Sapporo did nothing as I passed them on my bike tonight...

I mustered all of my mental capacities and deduced that the way through the roadworks was straight ahead, following the copious amounts of flourescent arrows and signs pointing straight ahead...

Phew. That was a tough one.  

On Wednesday, 15 November, 2006, Blogger LSL said:

I have to admit this brings back such fun memories! The flag wavers are just the beginning of the list of crazy jobs that I looked sideways at. There is something to be said for almost zero unemployment!  

On Friday, 17 November, 2006, Blogger the orientalist said:

Obviously I've been in Japan too long because the other day I came across some road-works when the flag man was having a break, and I completely missed the pedestrian bypass. Just didn't see it without the flag, flashing lights and vigorous pointing.  

On Thursday, 26 April, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said:

I actually saw a flag-waver directing foot traffic around another flag-waver. Not sure what that other flag-waver's purpose was.

Anyway, nice blog. Added you to my blogroll.  

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