This is a sweeping generalization I know, but as a race the Japanese are usually very reserved. They don’t like to speak out in public, or in any way draw unnecessary attention to themselves. Coming from Britain I can easily understand this mindset, and don’t really have any problems with it.
But what I can’t understand is behaviour that contradicts this, yet at the same time is accepted (or at least ignored). I’ve lost count of the number of things I’ve seen people doing on the train, which I (as an equally reserved Englishman) would never dream of doing in public. Simply for the fear of being openly ridiculed. Or at the very least stared at.
Here are a few of the things I’ve witnessed on the train.
1. Commuters cutting their nails.
2. Bizarre and elaborate stretching exercises.
3. A man cleaning out his ears with a cotton bud.
4. Women (and occasionally men) putting make-up on.
5. Salary men openly reading pornography.
And my personal favourite (which unfortunately I didn’t see, but was informed about through a frantically typed text message), was a woman shaving another woman’s forehead and eyebrows on the station platform. I kid you not.
The thing is, how can these people not be even slightly embarrassed performing such activities on a busy train (or platform)? Especially in overly self conscious Japan. And how come nobody stares, or looks on in disbelief? Yet when I get on the train, countless people stare just because I’ve got brown hair, a tall nose, and blue eyes.
That can’t be right. Can it?