Do they deliberately mean to be unfathomable? The Japanese way of life has always contained a challenge to Western individuals which historically has provoked extreme responses. At one end, there is a feeling of enviousness of a spirit of graceful hedonism which the Westerner lost back in the far reaches of time, yet has not recovered; like the family man who surfs porn but won’t hang a nude in the house for the fear of corrupting his children. So, there is an idealized sense of Japanese life, idealized and free from the blemishes of close self-conscious involvement. But what appears distant and idealized, pleasures for all incomes and tastes, enjoyed with equal decorum and the spirit of innocence, is also sometimes the reflection of a distorting mirror, caricatures of our Western civilization held uncomfortably close to one’s face.
Many Japanese, for instance, walk through life wearing anasthetists’ masks, which cover their mouth and nostrils. These masks or pads of cotton are worn by all ages in public and even at home. When we see images of this, the first response is to think they are victims of some frightful disease. But, the masks were meant as a protection against inhaling germs from the air and exhaling these same germs on others: a triumph of modern ideas of hygiene. It does remind of Gulliver’s travel to Laputa, where some people carried huge bundles on their backs, filled with models of all things they could think of, and conversed by pointing at the appropriate models because they held the effort of speaking to be unhealthy for the lungs.
If the masks can be considered to be a harmless travesty of Western scientific living, the nation wide addiction to pain-killers and tranquilizers, anti-depressants, can hardly be called that. At one time in the mid-1950′s these arrived like a typhoon in Japan, and were all sold without prescription, praised on billboards and magazines by unscrupulous advertisers who urged the customer to take a couple tablets on a regular basis throughout the day.
To a Japanese there is no paradox in thinking that tipping is odd but accepting that bribes are necessary to oil Japan’s political machinery; that a Japanese will take hours to position a few cherry blossom twigs in a vase, and will make the linings of a kimono beautiful enough to make you weep, yet are also happy to live in cities that look like a jumble of concrete Lego bricks arranged by a man wearing a blindfold.
With so many aspects of Japanese lives seemingly designed to baffle foreigners, misunderstandings arise easily. To the Japanese, there was nothing odd in the sight of a Toyota executive appearing before the world’s TV cameras to announce the recall of its cars while wearing a surgical mask. You don’t need to be a PR consultant to see that, to the West, especially to anxious Toyota drivers in the West, this makes as good an impression as turning up to the Vatican in hotpants. Even here, cultural misunderstanding widens the gulf: foreigners in Tokyo see these surgical masks, commonly worn during the cold season, as evidence of the natives’ hypochondria. In fact, it is a considerate gesture: they are wearing their mask to prevent you catching their cold.
In Japan, correct form is only slightly less important than breathing. The trouble is, Westerners generally don’t know that form; and Japanese — partly by design, partly because it never occurs to them — don’t strain to educate us. Corrupt company bosses and politicians occasionally resign, bow deeply to shareholders or voters in a symbolic show of remorse, only to retain their influence from a less prominent boardroom or Cabinet berth. It’s a way of life that is as choreographed as a Noh drama. Everyone in Japa
derstands the plot. It’s not so much that they can’t be bothered to explain it to you, they can’t see why you even want to know. Read More:http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/comment/columnists/guest_contributors/article7015730.ece
In Japan, large numbers of methylphenidate addicts and “advisors,” called “Ritalers,” use the Internet to promote how to best use the drug and offer drug swaps.
Read More:http://www.mental-health-abuse.org/realCrisis4.html …Toyota alerted the world to the crisis by wheeling out an anonymous executive to face the television cameras – wearing a surgical mask. What kind of message was that meant to convey? That driving full pelt is less dangerous than swine flu? …Perhaps this is common in Japan during cold season, but the message was broadcast worldwide, where a cultural nuance such as this could easily be misconstrued. First, it projected a “we are in toxic triage” image,…