It's an increasingly familiar sight during the rainy season: a young woman, seated on a train, gripping the handle of her umbrella vertically between her knees. But as she begins to doze she relaxes her grip, and her legs drift apart.
Physician and author Kimihiro Yoneyama, 57, finds himself aghast at the spectacle of these "kasa-mata onna" (women with umbrellas between their thighs), and when it comes to complaining, he doesn't beat around the bush.
"Especially when they wear skirts, it's a problem of where to direct your eyes," Yoneyama grumbles to Sunday Mainchi (July 12), adding it would be more appropriate for them to carry folding umbrellas.
Rakugo comedian Yonesuke Katsura, 61, is another middle-aged male who disparages what appears to be a decline in female modesty in public. While aboard the JR Chuo line between Shinjuku and Kanda stations, he looked on in amazement as a young woman applied cosmetics. During a span of approximately 20 minutes, she completely transformed herself.
"I can't understand this. She had no awareness that she could be seen by other people. They might as well yank out their false teeth in front of everyone," Katsura grumbles. What a change from the good old days, when Japanese brides were even advised to avoid letting their husbands peer at their sleeping face.
Another of Katsura's pet peeves is the clatter generated by women's casual footwear -- especially mules, which produce a terrible racket when the wearer descends the steps at a rail station.
"Who do they think they are, the 'oiran' on parade in Yoshiwara?" he asks, making a reference to old Edo's highest-ranked courtesans, who used to appear in public processions wearing enormous, stilt-like wooden clogs. "Some women wear mules to the office too. I feel like telling them, 'You're not on holiday at some oceanside villa!'"
Sports commentator Takenori Emoto, 61, meanwhile, is unhappy over women's shrill voices.
"You drop into an izakaya and they are really loud. On occasion, I've even asked the staff, 'Has your shop been booked for a private party?' And if I request one to tell her companions to turn down the volume a bit, she'll just get angry."
Emoto also complains that more women charge straight ahead like they own the sidewalk, expecting others to move out of their way.
Meiji University professor Takashi Saito offers an analysis of what's behind these changes in female behavior. "As with the old expression 'bojaku bujin' (outrageous or imprudent), it's come to this because women feel no awareness over being observed by others. They're concerned about those in their circle of acquaintances but have no consideration for anyone else. The trend is to treat others as if they didn't exist."
Well, it's one thing for males to mutter on the pages of a magazine; but the next time they encounter a woman doing something they dislike, can they summon up their courage and tell her off?
Probably not a good idea, advises Saito, who warns such criticisms might be construed as sexual harassment.© Japan Today