lifestyle

The importance of social etiquette in urban Japan

116 Comments
By Philip Kendall

Ask someone to describe the Japanese people in 10 words or fewer and more often than not "polite" or "reserved" will appear somewhere in the mix. Japan is known the world over as a safe, pleasant place to live where people are on the whole helpful and courteous; few people visit Japan and return home with tales of rude airport staff or inattentive waitresses.

When I first came to Japan, I had the pleasure of living for five years in a pretty little town in Fukushima Prefecture, surrounded by rice fields, rivers and some of the deepest greens I have ever seen. Of course, I experienced the warmth of locals’ hospitality and kindness first-hand, but it was only in when I moved south to Tokyo in 2011 that I came to understand the real meaning of the word "mana" (manner), and began to appreciate how much more important it is in urban living.

An English word adopted into the Japanese lexicon, "mana" is used to describe everything from not sticking your chopsticks upright in a bowl of rice to putting your mobile phone in discreet mode during a meeting. During my time in Fukushima, I had become accustomed to Japanese customs and rules of social etiquette — saying "itadakimasu" and "gochisosama deshita" before and after a meal, respectively; reversing into a parking space so as not to make others wait while I reversed out later; saying "ojamashimasu" when entering someone’s home or office — but city manners, I soon came to realise, is an entirely different beast.

With its population of more than 12 million, to say that Tokyo is crowded would be putting it mildly. Add an extra 3 million to that figure to include those commuting into the city from outside areas each day to arrive at a staggering 15 million. With so many people squeezed into such a small space, it’s little wonder that manners are such an important a part of daily life.

Every year, numerous surveys are carried out both by independent groups of statisticians and the three big rail companies – JR (Japan Rail), Keio, and Odakyu. Their goal: finding out what really gets on commuters’ nerves.

When it comes to interaction with other people and a lack of personal space, nothing can trump the rush-hour trains in Tokyo, so it’s only natural that, crammed into these steel tubes twice a day, five days a week, little annoyances are eventually going to take their toll on commuters. With this in mind, transport companies endeavor to keep abreast of the things that irk their customers, and hopefully take steps to dissuade such activities.

So what really ticks Tokyo’s commuters off? Of all the surveys and tables of data published in the last few years, the most common annoyances reported include:

  1. People eating and drinking on the train

  2. Not waiting for others to alight before boarding

  3. Not removing backpacks when it’s crowded

and my own personal pet hate

  1. Listening to music too loudly through headphones.

On those busy trains, there’s plenty to get on your nerves before long, it would seem.

But these are all merely insignificant niggles when compared to the two top-ranking offenders, which have remained unchanged for years: using mobile phones and sitting inconsiderately and taking up seats.

Mobile phones are nothing new, but since the birth of the smartphone, allowing us to browse the internet, check our Facebook account or tweet about the annoying guy beside us who keeps peering at our screen, just about everyone has a mobile in their hand during their commute. While operating a mobile phone inside a train is not in itself considered rude, talking on the phone, or allowing it to ring, beep, or — as once happened to me and caused me a great deal of embarrassment — accidentally play an obnoxiously loud YouTube video, is a definite no-no.

Perhaps the reason Japanese people have such a reputation for impeccable politeness and consideration is due to the very architecture and shape of their society. In city areas, where land is sold at a premium and buildings are designed with ever-ingenious space-saving features, people often live in extremely close proximity to others. Thinking about others and how one’s own actions may affect, or bother, those around us, is more of a necessity here than it is in many developed countries. So when people violate these codes of conduct it stands out.

A friend of mine once told me of an incident he’d witnessed on his way to work that at once surprised him and made his day. On a crowded Shinjuku Station platform early one weekday morning, a pair of young foreigners were waiting for a train, both looking a little dishevelled as though they were making their way home after a night on the town. The taller of the two lit a cigarette and started smoking, seemingly oblivious to the glares he was receiving from those around him. Mere seconds later their train pulled into the station, so, with no time to finish his cigarette, the young man threw it on the ground, gave it a half-hearted stamp and moved to board the train.

To their right, a young Japanese couple looked on, their expressions a mixture of anger and frustration. The smoker suddenly noticed the couple looking between him and his discarded cigarette, but merely affected an apologetic smile while putting his hands together and making a small, sarcastic bow. Chuckling, he and his friend jumped on the train.

My friend was about to lose his temper, and felt that, as a foreigner himself, he ought to say something. But before he could even open his mouth, the young Japanese woman had already walked over to the discarded cigarette and picked it up. She hopped on the train after the pair, approached the smoker and calmly popped the cigarette into his breast pocket, before turning on her heel and stepping off the train. The doors closed and the train swept the young men, literally open mouthed, out of the station. The young woman, meanwhile, rejoined her partner wearing a huge grin and exchanged a cheesy high-five.

It’s still rare to see people take a stand like this, especially since incidents of "gyaku-gire" (where the offender turns angry after being reproached) are being reported more and more in the news, and it is simply not in most Japanese people’s nature to cause a scene in public, but there is a definite feeling of transition in the air in Tokyo when it comes to upholding rules with regard to appropriate manner. Of course, it would be wrong to suggest that all Japanese are champions of courtesy and politeness (nor do I share my friend’s story to suggest that non-Japanese are the villains here), and there are plenty of people who will happily ignore the rules, but these occasional outbursts seldom go unnoticed. In a city where people spend the vast majority of their time either in shared spaces while at work or commuting, or in close proximity to others while living in apartment-style housing, it’s difficult to imagine Tokyo functioning any other way.

Smoking has been prohibited in Tokyo’s stations since 2009 after many complained of passive smoke while waiting for their trains. And while it’s still legal to smoke in many public places like restaurants and "izakaya," attitudes are slowly changing. A number of cities within the Tokyo area, for instance, now have no smoking emblems emblazoned on many roadways and pavements, and people are asked to smoke only in designated smoking areas. Anti-smoking poster campaigns, which are almost always based on manners and public perceptions of smokers rather than health risks, are a regular sight around stations, especially Japan Tobacco’s now famous ‘green men’ posters, that warn smokers about everything from breaking a child’s heart by putting out a cigarette in the snowman they built, to looking uncool by tossing a butt on the ground like the hero in an antiquated cowboy film.

Similarly, Tokyo Metro’s "Ie de Yaro" (Do it at home) poster campaign goes some way toward showing how important manners are in Japanese commuting life by depicting various anti-social acts such as falling asleep drunk, taking seats meant for disabled or elderly passengers, or applying make-up on the train (although personally I don’t have an issue with someone wanting to add a little mascara while commuting…), and politely asks "Please do it at home." It’s clear that in the land where trains run on time and people bow while talking on the phone, Japan’s society also relies heavily on co-operation and the consideration of others.

So remember, kids: remove your backpack when it’s crowded, switch your phone to manner mode and get ready to give up your seat to an old lady. Chances are if you don’t, someone nearby might be working up the courage to tell you to.

Read more stories from RocketNews24. -- Recent Survey Suggests That Japan’s Older Generation’s Manners Stink. -- Eight Great Tips for Getting a Seat on Japan’s Crowded Trains. -- Eating on Trains in Japan: Survey Asks “How Much is Too Much?”.

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116 Comments
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Well done young lady ! The smoking gaijin tools like that give us all a bad name.

8 ( +16 / -8 )

Thats a great story about the girl putting the cigarette butt back in that kids pocket. Personally almost all those annoyances ranked are legit except for the eating and drinking. As long as your not being a complete and utter slob and not hampering others from moving around you/sitting next to you, you should be able to eat and drink whatever you want on a train. Also I see alot of the dont do your makeup on the train, I see no issue with that either again as long as its not hampering anyone around you. If your just annoyed at someone who is eating, drinking, doing makeup because they are not doing what everyone is doing i.e. sleeping, have their nose stuck in their cellphone or worst of all just sitting there doing nothing I dont think it should stop you from doing something that could be considered somewhat productive.

7 ( +9 / -2 )

"She hopped on the train after the pair, approached the smoker and calmly popped the cigarette into his breast pocket, before turning on her heel and stepping off the train. The doors closed and the train swept the young men, literally open mouthed, out of the station."

Yes, well, quite frankly I don't believe this for a minute, and here's why: A friend of mine, Japanese for that matter, walked up to a man who did the same thing and said "There is a garbage bin just over there. Please throw it out properly", to which he got punched in the face. I moved over to step in and the guy ran off. Instead of the station attendant going after him or calling the police, he just came over an bowed to us, apologizing, and when he saw the cigarette butt picked it up himself -- we can't disturb the assaulter's wa, after all.

While Japanese are indeed kind in general, this article is just that -- GENERAL. It is chalk full of stereotypes not of someone who has lived here for a while but someone still in the honeymoon phase of a three-week stay. Infringements and bad behaviour are on an exponential rise, and heaven forbid if you bring it up -- you'll likely be stabbed or pushed in front of a train as the person you address snaps. When I first arrived the big complain about cell phone use was directed towards teens playing "Chaku-mero" on their 2G phones, but now without exception every time a cell phone loudly goes off it is either an elderly person with those little Chinese bells attached to phone and/or handbag who has never heard of 'mana' mode, or a business person.

The author is correct in that non-smoking places are on the rise. What he fails to mention is that there are people in almost all instances who ignore said signs, or just walk down crowded sidewalks smoking, on platforms in no-smoking areas, etc. And people don't glare at them at all! They look away and pretend not to notice, same as if a 10-year-old kid is being beaten unconscious by a 30-year-old at the station, for example. Don't you remember the pic of the day JT posted with about seven people standing in front of a no-smoking sign, puffing away?

I have experienced many many cases of Japanese people going out of their way to help me, and I've experienced many cases of belligerence by drunks, and even not drunks, who demand foreigners leave or are otherwise extremely rude. In short, it's not all that different from anywhere else, and largely falls on the individual, not some societal tradition/customs based on proximity in a dense city.

18 ( +25 / -7 )

Buddy of might got punched by a Japanese dude at a subway station... Why you ask? The Japanese dude was smoking and my friend mentioned the no smoking rule and the Japanese dude went off.

Once I saw a Japanese person using dental floss on the train. That was a real shocker.

8 ( +11 / -3 )

what a douchebag that smoker.

3 ( +7 / -4 )

Japan is, in general, fantastically polite and well mannered, and the trains are no exception.

Sure, everyone can think of an example they have seen where someone who didn't observe the rules, but given the number of people in the mean time you see obeying them perfectly ( do you see tens of thousands before you see the 1 person doing something really rude?), the numbers are tiny.

Smith, I have great trouble reconciling this statement with life in Japan:

Infringements and bad behaviour are on an exponential rise, and heaven forbid if you bring it up -- you'll likely be stabbed or pushed in front of a train as the person you address snaps.

1 ( +11 / -10 )

Ha ha ....what with Japan still being a smokers' paradise it must have been a one in a million chance for the writer's friend to see such a breach of etiquette!

The next time a suicide on JR makes me late for my work I will surely remember how 'mannerly' the Japanese are..........

7 ( +9 / -2 )

Yes, well, quite frankly I don't believe this for a minute, and here's why: A friend of mine, Japanese for that matter, walked up to a man who did the same thing and said "There is a garbage bin just over there. Please throw it out properly", to which he got punched in the face. I moved over to step in and the guy ran off. Instead of the station attendant going after him or calling the police, he just came over an bowed to us, apologizing, and when he saw the cigarette butt picked it up himself -- we can't disturb the assaulter's wa, after all.

I often wonder whether these stories are made or just embellished to make it sound better. And they always seem to be about the ignorant "foreigner". Very rarely do we see Rocket News write about Japanese this way. I`ve actually been in trains where there (Japanese) kids smoking and just stamping them out on the floor. Not to mention people hiding behind drink machines at station out of public view have a smoke. My wife, who is Japanese, every week tells me stories about the Keio-Inokashira line involving fights and other crazy stuff that she sees.

... but given the number of people in the mean time you see obeying them perfectly

Tamarama, you are definitely looking at Japanese society through rose-coloured glasses.

9 ( +12 / -3 )

While Japanese are indeed kind in general, this article is just that -- GENERAL. It is chalk full of stereotypes not of someone who has lived here for a while but someone still in the honeymoon phase of a three-week stay

Yes smith. When tourists or short term staters pretty much state to that effect about Japanese manners, he/she is free from the hate/frustration built up among some long term ex-pats who simply could not adapt to the surrounding environment. As usually the case with these people, their negativity grows and grows where you can clearly see their build up through on line postings.

-10 ( +11 / -21 )

Take the train/subway at peak time and you'll see how mannered are people. Don't expect a single sumimasen/sorry from those pushing you to go out, they'll walk over you if you let them that chance.

8 ( +11 / -3 )

What's often lost in an urban environment is empathy, not just manners. My wife is 8 months pregnant and still no one the entire time has volunteered to give up their "priority seat" to her without one of us asking. Just bad luck? I'm not going to Japan-bash, but at the same time I'm not buying the old blanket stereotype about Japanese always considering other people first.

20 ( +24 / -4 )

If you are not supposed to eat in public and especially on the trains, why is ice cream bars and cones sold in vending machines on the platforms? In the Japan heat, it's not like you are going to make it home successfully with the ice cream before it melts.

8 ( +11 / -3 )

@plasticmonkey

I'm not going to Japan-bash, but at the same time I'm not buying the old blanket stereotype about Japanese always considering other people first.

Agree. It should be made clear that generally speaking Japanese "exceptional" manners and politeness come more from a social fear of disturbing others and ostracisation than some innate propensity to having empathetic concern and compassion for others. I suppose that's what the writer wanted to say when he talked about Japanese cities being crowded and people in close proximity.

7 ( +10 / -3 )

It may just be me, but I feel that the standard of Japanese manners, politeness, and common courtesy have been in a nosedive over the past 2 years. It's funny how riding on the train seems to bring out one's true colors.

-1 ( +3 / -4 )

plasticmonkey, let me guess : you live on the seibu line or some other local line on the west side of Tokyo? My wife never had any problems getting seats on the Yamanote line or metro lines, and she's been pregnant twice. I'm not talking about the priority seats either.

1 ( +6 / -5 )

Tamarama: "Smith, I have great trouble reconciling this statement with life in Japan:"

Sorry, but it's true. These days I see people spitting all over the place -- in grocery stores, on trains, and most commonly the steps up/down trains and subway stations or just outside the exits; almost always a middle-aged or older male. I never used to see it. More and more people are eating/drinking on the train, and while I personally don't see this as a problem so long as they are clean about it, it clashes with 'traditional manners', as even the writer feels. Phones ring constantly on trains among the elderly and middle-aged, whereas people were more conscious about turning them off or using mana-mode in the past. People rarely these days give up seats to people who truly need them -- something that was quite common in the past. More and more people push to get on the train while others still are trying to get off -- almost always seniors.

And that's not even getting into stabbings and other crimes on the rise. As well, you need to take into account the fact that what is rude for some is not for others, and you cannot state one as being matter of fact. For a young woman, doing make-up on the train is not rude, but for an older person it can be considered rude. Who is correct? Times change, but so long as there are people insisting it's rude, then specific cases like that are also on the rise.

nigelboy: "Yes smith. When tourists or short term staters pretty much state to that effect about Japanese manners, he/she is free from the hate/frustration built up among some long term ex-pats who simply could not adapt to the surrounding environment."

Wrong again, but no surprise. Sorry, but people in denial are the ones who have not truly 'adapted', claiming that all Japanese are kind and are happy you're here, etc.

1 ( +10 / -9 )

Wrong again, but no surprise. Sorry, but people in denial are the ones who have not truly 'adapted', claiming that all Japanese are kind and are happy you're here, etc.

Sorry smith. Never stated "all" To add further, there is a reason why people who stayed here on short term basis(i,e tourists) have the same view of Japanese people because in general, they really are without the hate baggage some people (non-adapted long term types) have built up. These a general views as a result of millions and millions of visitors over decades. On the flip side, you don't hear tourists to China to have a consensus opinion that they are polite and well mannered, right? This is also evident on how the tourist industry views tourists from other nations as well. It's no secret that Japanese tourists have ranked on top among the tourist industry when it comes to manners.

-5 ( +12 / -17 )

big surprise the one example given is of the inconsiderate foreigner.

nor do I share my friend's story to suggest that non-Japanese are the villains here

then why bother mentioning it at all. saying "a person" was smoking would suffice. this idea of the polite, reserved society is better sold along with visions of samurais, ninja and geisha.

2 ( +6 / -4 )

@plasticmonkey, same situation for us here. My wife's also pregnant and has difficulty getting a seat on the trains. The worst are the ones who are busy playing games on their phones, glance up, notice my very pregnant wife, then go back to their phones, or slowly pretend to fall asleep.

8 ( +11 / -3 )

i had a situation similar to plasticmonkey and magnet. i was on crutches with a broken leg during my 1st year here. stood in front of 6 salary men in the priority seats on the ginza line, nobody moved an inch. i mean, i looked exactly like one of the figures on the priority seat sign, between the pregnant lady and the old man.

8 ( +11 / -3 )

I was interested to note the uncritical, and rather naïve, reference to Japan Tobacco's "Manner campaign". On the surface, this is a simple campaign encouraging people to be considerable when they smoke, but it is actually stealth marketing campaign that bypasses advertising restrictions on cigarette products. Cigarette products cannot be advertised either on television or on trains, but the "manner" advertisements manage, by exploiting legal loopholes, to keep smoking in the public eye as a normal, acceptable practice, which is fine as long as you do not inconvenience anyone. JT, damaging people's health while pursuing profit, want to avoid any mention of the detrimental effects of smoking and convince people that there is absolutely nothing wrong with cigarettes as long as you don't poke a child in the eye with one. It's sad to see people taken in by this propaganda.

0 ( +3 / -3 )

Very polite people, like me, say "ojama itashimasu".

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

nigelboy: "Sorry smith. Never stated "all""

Nor did you state "some". More importantly, nor does the article. It paints ALL of Japan with rose-coloured lenses, and worse yet provides contrast with the 'unruly foreigner' contrast via the example of the foreigners, drunk and dishevelled, smoking and throwing butts on the platform. You're far more likely, in contrast, to see a foreigner approach a Japanese in Japan to point out bad manners related to smoking in no-smoking areas than you are a Japanese do anything about it, let alone society enforce non-smoking laws. Parking/driving manners? bicycle manners?

My other point is that this whole 'manners' thing is going out the window, for a number of reasons. As I said, the times are simply changing, and what some call rude and what never happened in the past, happens now and which the people who do them don't consider rude (ex. doing make-up on the train... what's rude about it?). Cell phones didn't exist thirty years ago, so it stands to reason that with their introduction will come new customs that those who don't have or aren't used to cell phones. And seriously, what's different about a person talking on their cell phone on a train and two obasans speaking in loud voices about the manju they ate in Kobe the other day? The ONLY difference, aside from the obvious one person talking on a cellphone instead of two people talking to each other, is that if you pointed out to them they were being loud they would be baffled at the thought that they were being ill-mannered.

Anyway, once again, the point is that there are some pretty gross generalizations in this article that work to perpetuate an overall myth about society as a whole.

7 ( +11 / -4 )

When I was commuting from Tokyo to Yokohama and beyond on crutches for two months, the numbers of considerate acts of kindness was unending. Don't know why others had such a bad experience.

As for smokers in "no smoking" areas, I just say in Japanese, and not too aggressively, that smoking is not good, so please don't. Never a problem as the smoker already knows they are doing something unsupportable.

The more times a smoker is schooled by people around him/her, the more ready they will be when Japan finally bans all smoking indoors. Interesting article!

0 ( +6 / -6 )

@nigel boy - You suggest that people who have lived in Japan for a long time and raise certain criticisms are "jaded", and therefore their criticisms are, ipso facto, unjustified. The difference in perceptions on politeness in Japan between (some) newcomers and (some) long-term residents is an interesting issue. Can it really be explained just by negativity and cynicism on the part of the long-term resident? It would seem an obvious truism to state that someone who has lived in a society for,say, 25 years would generally know more about how the positive and negative aspects of how that society functions than a tourist. If you were to ask someone for information on, I don't know, Bolivia or Chad [moderator: do not refer to other countries], would you purposefully seek out people who had visited only as a short-term tourist in order to hear a more accurate, comprehensive overview of that society than you could hear from a permanent resident? You would? Tourists have overwhelmingly positive experiences of Japan because generally tourists are treated well. While its is obviously better for tourists to be treated well rather than poorly, this is a tautology that tells us little of significance about Japanese society (other than the strong desire to be seen favorably by outsiders where such favorable evaluations can be obtained without any significant social cost or modification). In the end, how tourists are treated is a minor issue in the complex web of society and hardly serves as a weapon to contradict the more nuanced opinions of people more familiar with a given society.

5 ( +8 / -3 )

hahaha!

"polite and reserved"?

Polite like the guy who started telling me "gaijin kaere"? And when I told him off (something I usually only bother doing when it is a real acquaintance, which this guy was), the person who originally introduced me to him getting angry at me for talking back to someone older than me? (I'm 40ish, the other guy like 55)

reserved like all the drunken ojiisan at matsuris who would give me a cockeyed rude look and grab me in the balls to see if I was a girl back when I had really long hair (and still didn't shave much).

I've met my fair share of kind, soft, warm, polite etc etc jpns in my years here, there really are many of them. But there's also a little bit of rudeness waiting to get out of a lot of them, and some are just over the top rude.

Really like anywhere else, I would say.

11 ( +15 / -4 )

Well "polite" in Japan is the "tatemae"... which is how one should ideally act for a society to smoothly function, to not cause any friction or create any disturbances. Which means that if they are being "polite", then it's not because they necessarily care about you per se, but it's because that's how they're EXPECTED to act. As you can see on the anonymous world of the Internet, they are not exactly the most polite bunch of people.

2 ( +8 / -6 )

Nor did you state "some". More importantly, nor does the article. It paints ALL of Japan with rose-coloured lenses, and worse yet provides contrast with the 'unruly foreigner' contrast via the example of the foreigners, drunk and dishevelled, smoking and throwing butts on the platform. You're far more likely, in contrast, to see a foreigner approach a Japanese in Japan to point out bad manners related to smoking in no-smoking areas than you are a Japanese do anything about it, let alone society enforce non-smoking laws. Parking/driving manners? bicycle manners?

Smith

You are the one who brought up the word "general" which I agreed to when describing the impressions of the manners and etiqutte og Japanese. I used the word " some" to describe the ex-pats who has not adapted. And since we are allowed to input our own personal experiences, I have NEVER seen foreigners or expats point out bad manners nor have I seen a guy with a broken leg not offered a seat let alone 6 salary man sit on a priority seat.

My other point is that this whole 'manners' thing is going out the window, for a number of reasons. As I said, the times are simply changing, and what some call rude and what never happened in the past, happens now and which the people who do them don't consider rude (ex. doing make-up on the train... what's rude about it?). Cell phones didn't exist thirty years ago, so it stands to reason that with their introduction will come new customs that those who don't have or aren't used to cell phones. And seriously, what's different about a person talking on their cell phone on a train and two obasans speaking in loud voices about the manju they ate in Kobe the other day? The ONLY difference, aside from the obvious one person talking on a cellphone instead of two people talking to each other, is that if you pointed out to them they were being loud they would be baffled at the thought that they were being ill-mannered.

Do you think Japan is the only country that thinks talking on the cell phone in an isolated place with others (non work related places) rude?

Jpn_guy,

In regards to the impressions of certain nation, I believe tourists are best barometers for the simple reason that they are free from the excess baggage I alluded to earlier and they are inherently making a comparison to their home country as well as other countries they visited if they happen to be a seasoned traveller. The service (like hotels and restaurants) may be pretty much the same in terms of courtesy but as tourists, they are also exposed to the local population who have no vested interest in them but are representation of the society in general. Hence, I made the statement about China where I sincerely doubt the tourists there got the impression that the population was polite and well mannered.

-14 ( +3 / -17 )

@nigelboy

Your point is valid to some extent, but remember that tourists only see the surface level of society and tend to make inaccurate assumptions like Japanese are politeness is genuine and innate, not just a result of social conditioning. So, how long have you been in Japan?

5 ( +8 / -3 )

Your point is valid to some extent, but remember that tourists only see the surface level of society and tend to make inaccurate assumptions like Japanese are politeness is genuine and innate, not just a result of social conditioning. So, how long have you been in Japan?

Chicken or egg debate whether it's the social norm that established politeness or the need for courtesy that established such norm. And does it matter? The reputation, as I stated, were from decades and millions of visitors who came to this conclusion unlike some who failed to adapt to this society mostly because of their ill-conceived attitude prior to their arrival that they should be treated like loyalty in which for some, believe that English speakers are "special"(why not? They give visa's and decent pay for simply having the ability to read/write/speak the language they were born with)

-17 ( +2 / -19 )

reversing into a parking space so as not to make others wait while I reversed out later;

Sorry, never got this. This is the first explanation I have heard for this odd behaviour and anyway it is nonsense. Firstly, if you reverse in when you park, any vehicle behind you has to wait anyway. However, if you back out of a parking space, you can wait until there are no cars coming that would have to wait.

I think that this is a made-up "mana", probably invented by driving schools!

6 ( +8 / -2 )

I would not say there is any special politeness in this country nor manners. (Ya, of course there are like anywhere else, but nothing special)

What I think everyone thinks of as politeness and manners could better be described as rules with respect to Japan. There are so many set rules, and breaking them embarrasses yourself, and because of the corporatist groupist culture, then what you did looks bad on anyone else in your group, especially if present at the time of the rulebreaking. So ppl really go to great lengths to avoid causing embarrassment to their in-group, never mind the "other" who is having the rude thing done to them (or polite thing).

It is really a deep and complicated subject that really you could go on and on about, and a lot of it lends itself to a cohesion and kind of ease of human relations in a lot of ways, times, which I appreciate a gr4eat deal. However it creates both an immense pressure within everybody which is not always good for them, or me, and also it proscribes a very narrow range of possibilities in both everyday behavior and in human relations and proposing plans of action that really keeps people bound up and away from ever changing.

In my country we do not have so many rules, therefore we have to always fluidly interact with the person we are dealing with. We do not have set things to do and say to accomplish things, and we are also kept from judging others when they may seem a little brusque or have different customs than ours. "That's that guy's way" "That's how that family does things". When you have a common shorthand for interactions, things can move swiftly and easily. But when you have openness and very different viewpoints on problems being exchanged you get more possibilities and you get more tolerance for differences.

I do not think that allowing for more different ways of doing things is somehow ruder than having a set proscribed way to behave in any circumstance. Again I have met a lot of nice Jpns who have been kind or polite to me, but a lot of Americans and Australians as well. The Jpns don't have the market cornered on politeness, they just have a lot more easily identifiable rules.

7 ( +10 / -3 )

@nigel boy You reach some unusual conclusions. I am struggling to understand why you think that tourists have a more accurate impression of manners in Japan than long-term residents. Any evidence for this position? What do you mean when you say the "local population have no vested interest in tourists". How does this relate to perceptions of manners? Please help me out here as I am a little confused. I also wonder how you conclude that long term residents who have difficulty adapting are struggling because they arrived with the wrong attitude. This statement seems unsupported. If I could offer an unsupported statement of my own: perhaps some people struggle precisely because short term visitors and long term residents are treated differently, irrespective of their initial expectations and attempts to adapt.

4 ( +7 / -3 )

Hmmm, I would love to believe this story and maybe it is true...Tokyo is a big city and there are a lot of Japanese people who lived abroad and become more confident to walk up to somebody who acts wrong.

Im pregnant and take a very crowded train 6 times a week. Along my route there is a womens university and also a lot old people take this line. In 3 months, I already look super hippo pregnant and I think I dont need to mention the temperatures we have currently ;), only one girl offered me her seat. Actually she was about to get of the train in 2 stops, would it be later I dont think she would give me her seat. It was also a priority seat o_O. All of them are genius to act like they don`t see me or the old Oba chan next to me. And most of the time I enter the empty train at the University station....which means it is not like I enter a packed train....they run into it and jump on the seat like they need to coz they will have a long way home....no they get of in 3,4 or 5 stations.

Few weeks ago I took a streetcar and two very very old Lady`s entered the car. The couple next to me, maybe mid 20th, just looked at them while they struggled to make there way through the car to look for a seat. My husband and I stood up and gave them our seats....The couple and other passengers looked at us like we are jumping naked through the car. But there one got maybe to ashamed and gave me his seat.

Japanese are polite yes, but only if you can point the individual out. If they are in a crowed like street or train they act in, what I call " camouflage mood "!

3 ( +6 / -3 )

he/she is free from the hate/frustration built up among some long term ex-pats who simply could not adapt to the surrounding environment

what does observing whats happening around you have to do with adapting to the surrounding environment? and if everything is peachy, where is the hate/frustration coming from? could it be that once you start learning the language and customs you see things to which a tourist is blind?

unlike some who failed to adapt to this society mostly because of their ill-conceived attitude prior to their arrival that they should be treated like loyalty in which for some, believe that English speakers are "special"

you brought this up twice so im curious how you define failing to adapt to society? do you mean that every one who has adapted to society is only going to have positive things to say?

4 ( +8 / -4 )

I don't understand why some people like to focus on the black seed on the rice. Personally, I've received or witnessed so many acts of kidness and received much help from japanese people, (especially when I just arrived) than in my entire life living abroad.

-3 ( +5 / -8 )

On the issue of reversing cars, I don't think its to stop other cars waiting. I always back my car in to parking spaces for safety reasons. Many people let their kids wander unsupervised around car parks, and kids are more likely to be walking past your parking space as you back out as opposed to standing in it as you back in. Of course a kid could run behind you as you are backing in, but you would be more likely to see them as you don't have neighboring cars blocking your vision, which is the case when you back out. Alternative explanations welcome! cheers

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

Perhaps the reason Japanese people have such a reputation for impeccable politeness and consideration is due to the very architecture and shape of their society.

Or....excellent at the promotion of generalizations as accepted truths.

My friend was about to lose his temper, and felt that, as a foreigner himself, he ought to say something.

Why? Why "as a foreigner"? Does he judge all Japanese by the actions of one or two? If not, then why in the world should he feel compelled to dispel someone else's - potentially - narrow-minded view of foreigners based on their observations of one or two? If it's wrong to do the former then it's wrong to do the latter and I have no time for this kind of nonsense.

But before he could even open his mouth, the young Japanese woman had already walked over to the discarded cigarette and picked it up. She hopped on the train after the pair, approached the smoker and calmly popped the cigarette into his breast pocket, before turning on her heel and stepping off the train.

First, I doubt this scenario even happened. Second, if it did, was this young woman inclined towards doing the same towards middle-aged Japanese businessmen who walk down streets smoking, streets in wards were outdoor smoking is prohibited? Does she do this to all of the young Japanese people you can regularly see smoking right under No Smoking signs all around the outside of Shinjuku Station, to name but one place?

Similarly, Tokyo Metro’s “Ie de Yar” (Do it at home) poster campaign goes some way toward showing how important manners are in Japanese commuting life by depicting various anti-social acts....

It's interesting as to how one can claim that these manners are so important and yet there is the need to remind people to follow them by placing posters all over the place because so many people don't seem to think that they're important.

2 ( +5 / -3 )

In Osaka, most people don't really give a crap whether you talk very loudly or use mobile phones in trains or whatever. Even in libraries, you often have kids running around and people are generally talking very loudly! I've never been to Tokyo, but I've heard a lot of bad things about the Tokyo people, so I think that generally it's only the Tokyo people who are very uptight.

0 ( +6 / -6 )

<><>

On the issue of reversing cars, I don't think its to stop other cars waiting. I always back my car in to parking spaces for safety reasons. Many people let their kids wander unsupervised around car parks, and kids are more likely to be walking past your parking space as you back out as opposed to standing in it as you back in.

This is a good explanantion, one that Yahoo answers backs up:

"Less likely to get into a serious accident since you don`t have anything to hit behind you (at least not people usually). "

A second explanation, is logically inconsistent ("begging the question"):

"Japanese are not used to watching for cars backing out of spaces and may not spot you in time if you are backing out of a space. Japanese will however, expect you to park backwards and wait for you if you are parking your car."

Also odd is:

"The Japanese are all about efficiency. It is quicker and easier to leave a parking space you have backed into."

It may be easier, but it is a darn sight harder to park in the first place!

http://answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20070625211025AAv0ZQH

There does seem to be a sensible reason, but the Japanese come up with all sorts of weird reasons to justify why they do what everyone else does.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

Been in Japan 15 years and don't agree with this article at all. I have seen people do things here that we would not dream of doing in Canada. Let"s face it, there will always be a percentage of ill-mannered slobs no matter where you do. Using the foreigner as an example in this article was BS. The Japanese are terrible when it comes to littering. Wrappers and bags simple drop from their hands to the ground without even being gripped.

9 ( +12 / -3 )

Wow, must be a different Japan that I live in. Either I've been extremely lucky or most people here unlucky. I have seen people jump out of their chairs when they see a blind person getting on the train. They take their elbow and lead them to where they were just sitting. My wife had some salaryman carry her stroller up the stairs at the station. A 60ish man gave up his seat on the bus to let me sit because I was carrying my baby. Just this morning on the Hanzomon line a man apologized for bumping into me. He barely even touched me. I wish more people here could experience such acts of kindness like I do on a regular basis.

-3 ( +4 / -7 )

@bicultural

Wow, must be a different Japan that I live in. Either I've been extremely lucky or most people here unlucky. I have seen >people jump out of their chairs when they see a blind person getting on the train. They take their elbow and lead them to >where they were just sitting. My wife had some salaryman carry her stroller up the stairs at the station. A 60ish man gave >up his seat on the bus to let me sit because I was carrying my baby. Just this morning on the Hanzomon line a man >apologized for bumping into me. He barely even touched me. I wish more people here could experience such acts of >kindness like I do on a regular basis.

That's great! And, we've all experienced such experiences of people going out of their way to help others, not only here in Japan but pretty much anywhere else in the world; I think the discussion here is about general trends and patterns of behaviour rather than isolated incidents.

It's also each persons disposition and outlook on life - perhaps you simply don't notice the unkind and selfish acts that go on around you, and all the power to you for that.

-2 ( +2 / -4 )

Tamarama, you are definitely looking at Japanese society through rose-coloured glasses.

I don't think so. Spent plenty of time living in Tokyo and now have the great pleasure of returning pretty regularly to enjoy what I think is generally a very high standard of manners and social etiquette 99% of the time.

To keep it in perspective, the place I currently live, which is one of the most prosperous and highly ranked cities for 'liveability' (Top 10 in the world) at present, has to employ an army of security guards on trains to stop the disputes and violence that are now more the norm than the exception. All this with 1/20th the population of the greater Tokyo area.

I honestly think that the vast majority of what people here are complaining about are worth the effort, and certainly not empirical evidence that the Japanese are rude at all.

I think some of you are stewing a little too much in your bubble.

-4 ( +4 / -8 )

@Roxana and possibly Tamarama

I don't understand why some people like to focus on the black seed on the rice. Personally, I've received or witnessed so many acts of kindness and received much help from japanese people, (especially when I just arrived) than in my entire life living abroad.

Might be going out on a limb her but are both of you oblivious to the fact that as women with white skin (and fair hair?) your appearance immediately puts you in social high status in Japan and this explains the exceptionally polite and kind treatment you have experienced?

Do you think a Chinese or Korean women would receive the same kind and polite treatment as you?

2 ( +5 / -3 )

In Osaka, most people don't really give a crap whether you talk very loudly or use mobile phones in trains or whatever. Even in libraries, you often have kids running around and people are generally talking very loudly!

Osaka people have very bad manners, and it's a source of great stress for me. Every time I go to Tokyo, I'm impressed, especially on the trains.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

It would seem an obvious truism to state that someone who has lived in a society for,say, 25 years would generally know more about how the positive and negative aspects of how that society functions than a tourist.

Broadly, yes. In practice, it depends on the individual. I have met a lot of longterm residents in my years living abroad. Some of them really know what they're talking about. Many don't. Generally, I've found the ones who reach fastest to play the "I've been here 20 years so I know what I'm talking about" card are the least reliable as a source of profound insights.

I'd rather talk to a thoughtful person who's been here 5 or 8 years than a blowhard who's been here 20. Standard JT commenter? Blowhard.

-2 ( +4 / -6 )

Letsberealistic

Might be going out on a limb her but are both of you oblivious to the fact that as women with white skin (and fair hair?)

Aww, I'm so flattered! I can't wait to show my wife.

-2 ( +2 / -4 )

Similarly, Tokyo Metro's "Ie de Yar" (Do it at home) poster campaign goes some way ...

Is yar pirate speak? Should probably be "Ie de Yarou".

Osaka people have very bad manners, and it's a source of great stress for me.

I don't know, i found that more people apologize when they bump into me in Osaka than in Tokyo, so maybe simply a difference in mentality.

In my limited experience, nobody has ever willingly taken the seat I offered. Either was flatly refused or had to almost argue with the person and finally persuade them to take the damn seat. I guess this is a form of politeness, but it is a real pain. Next time I'll just get up and walk away.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

@Tamarama

Hold on before you tell your wife ask yourself why I assumed I thought you were a woman. ;)

Your feminine writing style aside, are you doubting the influence of social status in the way people treat each other? Have you ever noticed people tend to treat you differently to the Asian faces around you as I have (white, fair-haired athletic and handsome male - even if I do say so myself).

Like you know doubt, I loved the special treatment and excessive politeness I recieved when I first came to Japan but noticed how differently Japanese can treat each other, and in particular low-status members of society (homeless, Chinese, Koreans etc.).

0 ( +3 / -3 )

I remembered we were made to stand by the bin right after we lit up and sat on the bench in Narita Airport. It's either stand and smoke or sit and put out the cigarette. In cold winter day, everybody quickly have their puff and hopped inside. It just doesn't help few of us who smokes kretek like cigarette which takes twice the time.

-3 ( +0 / -3 )

@wipeout: "I'd rather talk to a thoughtful person who's been here 5 or 8 years than a blowhard who's been here 20". I agree, good point. Not everyone learns equally from their experiences. I haven't quite been here 20 years, but sometimes I do wish I'd made better use of my time and had more of interest (either practical or academic) to tell new arrivals - not that they are asking for advice! I do see that you but the minimum time for some insight into a society at 5 years, which is a rather different, and more sensible, perspective than previous commentators who were suggesting judgments about a society's manners are best made by tourists. I was simply pointing out that how tourists, for example, receive service in hotels and restaurants is a minor issue that tells us little about general behaviour a country as a whole. Long term residents encounter various situations, both at work and in the community, where something is genuinely at stake. How people behave when discussions matter and have consequences shows more about a society than how people behave in simple dealings with tourists that have no further significance. I just wanted to point out that as tourists are not involved in society in any long-term consequential way, they cannot serve as a "barometer" for assessment. I wasn't suggesting every single long term resident turns into a fountain of sage wisdom. Interesting that you conclude your own comment by disparaging the level of a discussion you are taking part in yourself. Cheers then.

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

nigelboy: "And since we are allowed to input our own personal experiences, I have NEVER seen foreigners or expats point out bad manners nor have I seen a guy with a broken leg not offered a seat let alone 6 salary man sit on a priority seat."

I'd say you've just not been looking, or like many choose only to acknowledge the praise this nation gets, and look away and cover ears when there's criticism (or when you MUST admit it you react by calling something 'bashing' as though it were a valid retort to fact). I've seen pregnant women, people with crutches, and seniors who could barely walk not able to sit because -- and nowhere did I say only salarymen -- people won't get up and pretend to be asleep, including teens. Once I even nudged one kid's leg with my foot and told him to give up his seat because I couldn't stand seeing the pregnant woman stand in front of him just staring any longer. Now, that said, I HAVE also seen people give up seats, and thank god for the future of this nation it has more often than not been little kids who give it up. If you haven't seen a foreigner point out bad manners then you haven't seen it. Big deal. I have, and I've done it as well.

"In regards to the impressions of certain nation, I believe tourists are best barometers for the simple reason that they are free from the excess baggage I alluded to earlier and they are inherently making a comparison to their home country as well as other countries they visited if they happen to be a seasoned traveller."

Ah, so now you backtrack and attempt to qualify with 'seasoned' traveler when before (and even in the same line) it was simply 'tourist'. In any case, it is entirely wrong. A tourist coming to Japan isn't going to know about the money he's not paying in taxes is being funneled into unnecessary public works projects, or that there is no one really promising to vote for this weekend (or that you cannot vote, for that matter, as a foreign national). This is ESPECIALLY true of many (not all!) Japanese tourists, who travel in a microcosm of Japan known as the group tour, stay, regardless of how impoverished the nation may be, at the Ritz Carleton, ride a bus for hours and get out long enough to snap a few pictures, use only Japanese and barely interact with the locals, etc. How are these people at all better barometers than, say, even a person who goes on an exchange for a few months, or a person who lives overseas for a few years? You don't go on a one week vacation to another nation to see the dark underbelly of many facets of society, but they are still there, in every nation on the planet, and a person who over time comes to see them isn't carrying 'baggage'.

jpn_guy: "You reach some unusual conclusions. I am struggling to understand why you think that tourists have a more accurate impression of manners in Japan than long-term residents"

He often does. It is simply impossible for a tourist to have a more valid and/or accurate impression of the people of ANY nation than long-term residents. Impossible. But many people, as I said, and as is the case with this article, want to only hear praise, and call any criticize 'baggage' or 'bashing'.

" I also wonder how you conclude that long term residents who have difficulty adapting are struggling because they arrived with the wrong attitude."

You make very excellent and objective points, but I would make a couple of points. First, as to what a certain poster concludes, he does so because as I said he doesn't like it when negative facts about Japan are brought up. Next, these people don't necessarily have trouble adapting at all, the poster in question just suggested it because they don't all blindly think everything is wonderful after spending a lot of time living/working here. Well, unless 'adapting' means being a hollow shell, accepting servitude to a 'higher cause' (the company), and not questioning anything whatsoever until you snap. Finally, and I think we agree on this, I don't know too many people at all who 'arrive with the wrong' attitude, be they tourist or long-term resident. This is just another fobbing off of criticism. Some develop the 'wrong' attitude over time, but again I think 'wrong' is just the term applied by someone who doesn't like an opinion or pointing out of facts that paint the place in a bad light. Given time, it is quite natural to see certain negative elements of a society, be it here or anywhere else, and so I'd say it's less of a 'wrong attitude' in most cases as it is being able to see the good as well as the bad.

9 ( +13 / -4 )

Smithinjapan, you are very wise, I think. Many people want believe only Japan is perfect place. Every day on a train I see middle age salaryman picking a nose, or pretend he can't see pregnant lady or elders. It is very shame situation.

A lady in this article would not give a butt to Japanese smoking man, I think. Only to foreigner she is very "brave".

0 ( +6 / -6 )

My pet hates on a train (or anywhere else):

Loud sneezers People who sniff

I travel to work by train everyday and have noticed, although it is not an annoyance, that Japanese people never use the overhead luggage racks. Instead almost everyone sits with their belongings on their knees, even when the train is half-empty. I wonder why this is, it's not like there's much chance of your stuff being stolen.

1 ( +4 / -3 )

Reversing into a "known" delineated space (a car park) is considerably less dangerous than reversing into a much more open space (access road or lane)

Of course anyone could suddenly appear in the "known" space - a hazard of driving - but the open space is exactly that - open, and it is subject to much more traffic, vehicular as well as pedestrian.

I'd much prefer to confront the vagaries of the open space facing forward, than rubber necking or mirror glancing.

-3 ( +1 / -4 )

“and my own personal pet hate

Listening to music too loudly through headphones.”

…You can thank Steve Jobs for that - moving headphone tech back two decades so instead of more discreet in ear headphones we had now rubbish ipod headphones everywhere. Maybe they don’t have “mana” at Apple.

-3 ( +1 / -4 )

I'd say you've just not been looking, or like many choose only to acknowledge the praise this nation gets, and look away and cover ears when there's criticism (or when you MUST admit it you react by calling something 'bashing' as though it were a valid retort to fact). I've seen pregnant women, people with crutches, and seniors who could barely walk not able to sit because -- and nowhere did I say only salarymen -- people won't get up and pretend to be asleep, including teens. Once I even nudged one kid's leg with my foot and told him to give up his seat because I couldn't stand seeing the pregnant woman stand in front of him just staring any longer. Now, that said, I HAVE also seen people give up seats, and thank god for the future of this nation it has more often than not been little kids who give it up. If you haven't seen a foreigner point out bad manners then you haven't seen it. Big deal. I have, and I've done it as well.

We've all seen "incidents" that are counter to the general perceptions of the politeness of the Japanese population. What I don't understand is your insistence to argue this perception based on isolated incidents as if it were a norm.

Ah, so now you backtrack and attempt to qualify with 'seasoned' traveler when before (and even in the same line) it was simply 'tourist'. In any case, it is entirely wrong. A tourist coming to Japan isn't going to know about the money he's not paying in taxes is being funneled into unnecessary public works projects, or that there is no one really promising to vote for this weekend (or that you cannot vote, for that matter, as a foreign national). This is ESPECIALLY true of many (not all!) Japanese tourists, who travel in a microcosm of Japan known as the group tour, stay, regardless of how impoverished the nation may be, at the Ritz Carleton, ride a bus for hours and get out long enough to snap a few pictures, use only Japanese and barely interact with the locals, etc. How are these people at all better barometers than, say, even a person who goes on an exchange for a few months, or a person who lives overseas for a few years? You don't go on a one week vacation to another nation to see the dark underbelly of many facets of society, but they are still there, in every nation on the planet, and a person who over time comes to see them isn't carrying 'baggage'.

Never back tracked anything. I repeat, the tourists are inherently making a comparison to their home country 'as well as other countries they visited if they happen to be a seasoned traveller. ' And mentioning about your "tax burden" is exactly the excess baggage I'm referring to which has nothing to do with the topic at hand which is the general impression of ettiqutte, manners, and politeness of the population. As a tourist, not only do you sightsee and shop, you observe the people that are around you whether it be in a public transportation, eating establishments, simply walking along with other pedestrians. I know this is what I do when I go to other countries and the impressions are quite different from country to country (China, for example) because subconsciously you are making a comparison whether it be your home country or other countries that you had visited. Now times that by millions of million of visitors over decades and voila, a "general" perception, impression, or reputation. But what you are essentially arguing is that there are exceptions to this which I will most definitely agree. So what? The author is saying the same thing as well by stating "Of course, it would be wrong to suggest that all Japanese are champions of courtesy and politeness (nor do I share my friend’s story to suggest that non-Japanese are the villains here), and there are plenty of people who will happily ignore the rules..." so I don't see why you need to continually stress the so-called "exceptions" as if it were a norm.

-11 ( +3 / -14 )

There are some polite people here - no argument here. Just two points:

Salarymen - please, please PLEASE! - stop taking up those extra seats with your laptops/bags in the unreserved shinkansen cars! One last week had the hide to frown at me when I threw his bag up in the rack and took my seat in the one he had plonked his bag on. If you want the extra seat - no problem - pay for it!

Mrs. Des (when noticably 7 months pregnant) had to stand up on the train on our few trips to Tokyo last year. Once, she got tired and told the young man in the priority seat to let her sit down. Heck, she was even displaying the pregant badge thingy on her bag!
0 ( +3 / -3 )

BTW - to balance things out, our daughter has been shown the most amazing amount of kindness and courtesy in public here - which I always treasure! People in the countryside where we live are actually too kind at times!

-2 ( +3 / -5 )

a most interesting article. If japan is really the land where trains run on time they should send some people overhere to train some public management ...

-3 ( +0 / -3 )

Unfortunately a society changes with the way of thinking as people become either more self-centered or more considerate of others. I have a motto, "You only get as much respect and consideration as you give..." And if a person shows they're inconsiderate of others, you have no obligation to be considerate of them. Harsh I know, but I've run into too many fools to treat them otherwise.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

Most politeness is a reflection of rules and codes of behaviour, not much about common sense decency. Look at how much noise groups make in restaurants, shouting and laughing when a young couple are jammed in behind them trying to enjoy their meal. Look how nobody gets up for old people to sit down on trains. Look how car drivers never allow traffic from a side lane to filter in - they just drive forward with the attitude 'I'm in the lane'. That is why Japan needs so many traffic lights - there is no common sense to negotiate a sensible option.

0 ( +4 / -4 )

Funny things happen when you live in a jungle...a concrete jungle!

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

I've come to understand, that since Japan is a commuter nation, all manners fly out the window during rush hour. What really gets me is that the JR companies don't run enough cars so all people can sit down. I don't use the train unless I have to. But, the people just take it, and take it, and take it. Their fault as far as I'm concerned.

-3 ( +3 / -6 )

A general perception/consensus shattered because people are pointing out, "That's not true. I once witnessed...blah blah"

There is no society in the world where everybody is perfectly polite. There's always going to be people who are rude and impolite, because that's just how people are and there is diversity within any society. Maybe some people are just getting sick of hearing "Japan (or country X) is perfect, blah blah blah, if you say otherwise then you are wrong" because reality does not match that fantasy of some wishful thinking nationalists where their country is absolutely perfect without any flaws.

The fact is, Japan APPEARS as a polite society, although in reality it's probably no more or less polite than any other developed nations, because that's just how the Japanese are expected to act, not because they are more innately polite than the others.

Does it really matter whether Japan is polite or not... well, it appears that there is a cost to being polite all the time. If people are constantly EXPECTED to be and act polite, then there's going to be inner frustrations because they can't really express their true feelings. You can see that in many Japanese people, where they act very passive-aggressively and eventually "blow up" to let off their steam at some point (again, WHEN they "blow up" is also expected). Or they can only express their real feelings when they have had a lot of Sake, etc.

2 ( +7 / -5 )

There is no society in the world where everybody is perfectly polite. There's always going to be people who are rude and impolite, because that's just how people are and there is diversity within any society. Maybe some people are just getting sick of hearing "Japan (or country X) is perfect, blah blah blah, if you say otherwise then you are wrong" because reality does not match that fantasy of some wishful thinking nationalists where their country is absolutely perfect without any flaws.

Why do you use such words as "perfectly" or "perfect" when no one has done so except you right now?

The fact is, Japan APPEARS as a polite society, although in reality it's probably no more or less polite than any other developed nations, because that's just how the Japanese are expected to act, not because they are more innately polite than the others.

Chicken or egg? Does it matter if there is a societal need to act that way or the society demands it?

Does it really matter whether Japan is polite or not... well, it appears that there is a cost to being polite all the time. If people are constantly EXPECTED to be and act polite, then there's going to be inner frustrations because they can't really express their true feelings. You can see that in many Japanese people, where they act very passive-aggressively and eventually "blow up" to let off their steam at some point (again, WHEN they "blow up" is also expected). Or they can only express their real feelings when they have had a lot of Sake, etc.

Again so? The author points to a different perspective in that in order to avoid this inner frustrations within a limited space with so many people is the need for people to act with manner, politeness, and etiquette. Chicken or egg again?

-12 ( +3 / -15 )

@Thomas Anderson

There is no society in the world where everybody is perfectly polite. There's always going to be people who are rude and impolite, because that's just how people are and there is diversity within any society. Maybe some people are just getting sick of hearing "Japan (or country X) is perfect, blah blah blah, if you say otherwise then you are wrong" because reality does not match that fantasy of some wishful thinking nationalists where their country is absolutely perfect without any flaws.

The fact is, Japan APPEARS as a polite society, although in reality it's probably no more or less polite than any other developed nations, because that's just how the Japanese are expected to act, not because they are more innately polite than the others.

Does it really matter whether Japan is polite or not... well, it appears that there is a cost to being polite all the time. If people are constantly EXPECTED to be and act polite, then there's going to be inner frustrations because they can't really express their true feelings. You can see that in many Japanese people, where they act very passive-aggressively and eventually "blow up" to let off their steam at some point (again, WHEN they "blow up" is also expected). Or they can only express their

real feelings when they have had a lot of Sake, etc.

As a long timer in Japan, you hit the nail right on the head. Appearances can be deceiving.

2 ( +6 / -4 )

With regard to the tourists having "fresh eyes," I say no to that.

I stil remember one of my good friends telling me when he got here "the tv here is so great, not commercialized like in the US" I just burst out laughing. Further, when I tried explaining that not only is it all pushing stupid products, and/ or trying to sell the model/ singer/ actor's other products (albums etc) by having them on the silly food shows and hot water/ cold water torture shows, he still wouldn't believe me and stuck to his non-commercial thing because it's what he wanted to believe.

I was the same way when I first got here about other stuff besides tv, you are in an exciting new place, there's of course always bad points you wish you could change about your own home, and suddenly in this new place they are doing things radically differently than ppl do at your home, so you think, oh, I wish we could be like this. Whether it's manners or tv or whatever, there's just so much you want to believe for what ever reason.

When yr in that state tho, there's two things you are missing,

one is CONTEXT, of course being fluent in the language is going to give you a little more insight into something that only seems more exotic simply because you can't speak yet. But also, never mind language, a lot of behaviors and customs will really stand out because you can't see a) the relations between a lot of the customs which just seem unrelated and totally wild at first, as opposed to the cohesive whole that it is, and b) you can't see what went in to teaching the customs, i.e., socialization of children at home, school, new workers etc etc

the other is PERSPECTIVE, perhaps parallel to the above, but because it is all so new, you really miss the fact that it is every day, and in fact very mundane stuff to the natives, not at all "radical" or "different", and it is just as likely to be frustrating, or stuck-in-the-mud-like as your pet peeves about home are, and of course not seen as special or exciting to the natives. You make it excotic yrself.

Being a traveller or a newcomer to a place can give you a lot of energy, and you can point out something that ppl used to things might have forgot, or come up with exciting new ideas etc, it is a very stimulating and important role to play. However, I do not generally trust newcomers with any kind of deep understanding or summation of things b/c there's just too much they don't know...

5 ( +9 / -4 )

She hopped on the train after the pair, approached the smoker and calmly popped the cigarette into his breast pocket, before turning on her heel and stepping off the train.

I did the same thing to a really obnoxious Japanese guy once, only his discarded cigarette was still lit.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

@Lowly

I was the same way when I first got here about other stuff besides tv, you are in an exciting new place, there's of course always bad points you wish you could change about your own home, and suddenly in this new place they are doing things radically differently than ppl do at your home, so you think, oh, I wish we could be like this. Whether it's manners or tv or whatever, there's just so much you want to believe for what ever reason.

That brings back memories for me; when I first came to Japan I had the same experience - I said to Japanese friends/colleagues "people are so polite!" and they usually replied, "yeah, but they don't mean it, it's all for show and keeping up appearances, at least overseas they show politeness and mean it, or just don't be polite, it's way more honest than here".

Have to admit I refused to believe it at first, but as time went by it became pretty obvious.

3 ( +6 / -3 )

That's not true at all. The vast majority of people (This is in the American midwest, mind you) are genuinely polite or neutral. There are not many outright impolite people, and those few are looked upon poorly by the majority of people.

Of course they are. But the detractors here wants you to believe that vast majority of the people here are not "genuinely polite" for it is within their social pressure to act in such a manner. Some even went on to state that because of this restriction, millions of millions of people will "act passive-aggressively and eventually "blow up" to let off their steam at some point " This person can see this "in many Japanese people". It's a ticking time bomb!!!

-11 ( +3 / -14 )

I don't believe the story of the woman putting the cigarettes butt into the man's pocket! No Japanese, all the more elder Japanese will take time off to do such a thing. They cldnt be bothered"

2 ( +5 / -3 )

buildings are designed with ever-ingenious space-saving features

Like paucity of rooftop patios, basements, and underground storage lockers and parking, all of which I have at my condo in gaikoku? I could see where this article was heading from the start: into the realm of fantasy.

0 ( +4 / -4 )

If a guy is in your face and you feel like beating the crap out of him yet from what you have been taught you are nice and cordial, that's being polite. What's all this nonsense about "genuinely polite"? Traditionally Japanese are taught to be cordial and not display their true feelings. However, these days Japanese are becoming more like foreigners and expressing themselves; " ...I'm having a bad day so f off.."

0 ( +2 / -2 )

StewartJG: "I travel to work by train everyday and have noticed, although it is not an annoyance, that Japanese people never use the overhead luggage racks. Instead almost everyone sits with their belongings on their knees, even when the train is half-empty. I wonder why this is"

I used to put a bag on the luggage rack above, especially if standing on a crowded train (to avoid taking up space), but after twice being kind of pushed out the train in the crowd flow without being able to get my bag, once before the doors closed, and after another two times simply forgetting what I put up there and getting off the train, I mostly stopped. I think it's less of a fear of theft than of forgetting.

0 ( +4 / -4 )

Another reason why I prefer Osaka to Tokyo. Tokyo commuters are always expressionless, quiet and move in an orderly fashion. Osaka is like whatever and you can do what you want when you want without complaint.

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

"Not waiting for others to get off the train before boarding"

That's my pet peeve. Especially when I've been standing on the platform for several minutes and I've got one of the two first-in-line positions on the platform, and then the train arrives and the doors open and when people are still coming out, the other person first in line on the other side of the door goes in, then everyone behind that person goes in while I continue to wait for the rest of the people coming out, then I don't get a seat. Grrr!

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

stewart and smith- i also think it has to do with leaving space available so people who are standing have a chance to put their bags up there, rather than hold them. at least i like to think thats one of the reasons

-3 ( +0 / -3 )

You know, if all of that list of things are pet peeves about manners and what not, I guess the folks who "break" those rules must not be Japanese. Hell if all the Japanese got the handbook on following manners and rules, it's just got to be the foreigners that don't know what's up!

The length that people will go to in trying to be "more" Japanese than the "Japanese" themselves, and then ending up shooting themselves in the foot because it won't matter one bit, like it or not, you'll still be a gaijin for as long as you live here and "look" like a foreigner.

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

Ignorant smokers drop butts outside my house all the time (Amagasaki). Why don’t they put the butt in their pocket? - oh no, that would be dirty. Take heed smokers! Social etiquette my arms.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

Ignorant smokers drop butts outside my house all the time (Amagasaki). Why don’t they put the butt in their pocket? - oh no, that would be dirty. Take heed smokers! Social etiquette my arms.

I live in Takaido, Suginami ward and it's similar. Suginami is supposed to cigarette free, smoking on the street is forbidden - it's plastered all over the sidewalk, "No smoking". Does anyone care? Absolutely not, smokers still light up and throw away the butts anywhere they please. Personally I don't see much difference in the "etiquette" of people in my own country and in Japan, it's pretty similar. The only difference is this continuous repetition of the dogma that Japanese have better etiquette than everyone else.

5 ( +7 / -2 )

On the whole, Japanese people are probably more polite than people in most other countries, although there are polite people and louts everywhere. I have had people (including women) offer me their seat on a train or bus simply because I am old. Many foreigners do not seem to realize that being polite is often simply minding your own business and not taking the law into your own hands if you see somebody smoking in a no-smoking area, for example. If you act like a jerk anywhere, generally you will be treated like one.

-1 ( +4 / -5 )

The one rule to live by in Tokyo is: I am the only person that exists.

Treat others as non-existent and you'll be alright. Barge, shunt, and ignore like the natives. It's the only way.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

There are some people in Japan who break or circumvent rules of ettiquette as a matter of routine. There are some people who always endevour to follow them. However, in my experience, the majority follow some rules but not others as a matter of personal style and also tend to be idiosyncratic about when they think the rules apply as opposed to when they think they don't.

I think the situation of the enclosed public space in a train is a little too simple to use as a basis for the analysis of the role of etiquette in society at large. Direct experience of school, workplace, neighborhood and family interactions provides a more reliable sense of what goes on.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

I find Japan (including Tokyo) to be a very polite city. Sure you'll get the odd incident where somebody is rude, pushes or shoves you, but that is certainly not the norm. Whether it is genuine or not is irrelevant.

-4 ( +2 / -6 )

On the whole, Japanese people are probably more polite than people in most other countries, although there are polite people and louts everywhere.

I guess you didn't bother to read other posts.

0 ( +3 / -3 )

Politeness can also be an armor to keep people at distance. After some time and lots of effort, I managed to become an in-group member and observed quite a bit of rudeness, discrimination against "lower" group members, mean parody, nosiness, gossip - just as everywhere. Also, japanese have no problem at all to command you around when they hold some sort of administrative or supervising office (and there are maaaany!) and have no problem in being demanding and pointing out your wrong-doings. I often sensed that people felt obliged to help me even if they didn't want to do it, which made me feel very uneasy with time, feeling like my pure presence caused additional trouble in this society already overloaded by mutual courtesy. Being Austrian, I have been treated very politely most of the time, but this also made me sad because I ran into this wall so many times without being able to really get to know my "friends" and colleagues. But this all changes once they let you in - and here I see the most difference to my home country. We tend to be impolite to strangers (because we dont care about them) but polite to people we know.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

The most annoying, and illogical, thing is the CONSTANT announcements about not using mobile phones. A million more times annoying (and LOUDER) than the rare individual who uses a mobile phone. And, lets face it someimes you HAVE TO use a mobile phone, in an emergency, if a very important client calls you etc. It's not a sin, it's not a crime. Get over it! But, on the other hand, all those dirty looks.... just priceless.

3 ( +5 / -2 )

I can't say that the vast majority of the people in Japan are "genuinely" polite and considerate of others when:

1) There are many people that don't give up seats for pregnant women and the disabled, etc. In fact they still tend to face a lot of discrimination in Japan.

2) There are some (many?) people in Japan (maybe in Tokyo) who actually get annoyed when somebody brings a stroller to a train or a bus, and expect the person to fold it up and carry the baby him/herself. I mean that is just ridiculous. If you were truly polite and considerate, then you'd happily help unburden the burdened person even just a little bit.

3) A lot of people are vindictive and overreact toward those who are "rude" and seemingly break the informally agreed-upon social rules, for example the man who went inside the ice cream fridge, and proceed to lynch the "victim" with a mob, all anonymously on the Internet, of course. Never mind the fact that they have been acting 1000x more rude and inconsiderate than the brand new victim that they are punishing. The anonymous world of the Internet in Japan is at times, simply shocking and terrifying. I see no consideration or politeness at all.

There are many more examples... but those are just a few of them... If you dig deep enough, then like in any societies, you can notice the contradictions and hypocrisies in the Japanese society.

0 ( +4 / -4 )

Politeness in Japan is one of the many self-generated myths here. Japanese people are polite when social norms dictate that they have to be polite. Otherwise, other human beings are simply not on the radar.

6 ( +8 / -2 )

Thanks

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Got on my train and watched an older man with a cane board the train and look around for a seat. Not one person moved even though they all looked up and clearly saw that this guy needed a seat. I see this on a regular basis so no, this country is not any better than any other country when it comes to manners and social graces. It is "all about me" out there and frankly, I am tired of articles like this when I see such things on a daily basis.

3 ( +6 / -3 )

The funny thing about this article is it is only about train manners, and those are things are 1. constantly posted or announced on trains. and 2. are basically presented as 'you will be rude, so follow this rule' 3. a large number of people don't follow them, hence the announcements/posters.

What was a real eye opener to me was at a party, my friend who recently discovered she was pregnant was concerned about her rush hour commute, and asked advice of the several Japanese friends about how she can get a priority seat once she receives her 'I'm pregnant' badge. She asked if she could say 'excuse me, I am pregnant, may I have your seat?' The unanimous response, by about 8 Japanese friends 'No, you cannot ask for the seat. We Japanese have to be concerned about others, and it is rude for you to ask to sit there' WTF??? SHE would be rude for politely asking for a seat to the people disrespecting the rules? WA is a strange and mysterious thing.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

Well see, here's the problem... in the Japanese society, you MUST act polite. You MUST show reverence to your "superiors". You MUST "humble yourself" or "not inconvenience others". There is essentially no other way of acting. You can't act casually in most social situations. Since you are essentially FORCED to act polite, this takes a toll on a lot of people (it's not something that they genuinely want to do). And since they don't get to be polite more spontaneously on their own, they never really learn how to be genuinely polite, when they act polite more out of having the feeling of wanting to be considerate to others, and not merely to follow rules. They are TOLD to be polite, but they are not FEELING polite. Since politeness is essentially based on your FEELINGS, it must come from within. You can not FORCE a feeling out of someone, it must come out spontaneously from the person from within.

-2 ( +3 / -5 )

Like I said, who cares if it's from social necessity, religious background, or social norm/customs that was established in that particular community. If I was a recepeint for such gesture, the background of their actions really doesn't come to mind so I don't get the mentality the need to reevaluate the root of their actions. But I guess you can say that a true "genuine" politeness is something that you experience in an environment where there are full inconsiderate selfish individuals so it stands out. Out of the "norm" so it's a "pleasant surprise" sort of speak. That's so much better environment because I was able to experience "genuine" politeness!! Lucky me!

-6 ( +3 / -9 )

Like I said, who cares if it's from social necessity, religious background, or social norm/customs that was established in that particular community.

It's a problem, because it causes strain on individuals. If they do it out of NECESSITY and not because they want to, then it's unhealthy and may cause stress in the long run (one of the reasons why the Japanese people tend to be stressed out and unhappy). But of course this is not a problem to you, since what you only care about is Japan's "image", what's on the surface.

If I was a recepeint for such gesture, the background of their actions really doesn't come to mind so I don't get the mentality the need to reevaluate the root of their actions.

So you only care about how you feel, and not how others feel. It doesn't matter to you whether it's something that they really want to do, or they were merely forced to act in a certain way by being pressured by the society.

-1 ( +3 / -4 )

It's a problem, because it causes strain on individuals. If they do it out of NECESSITY and not because they want to, then it's unhealthy and may cause stress in the long run (one of the reasons why the Japanese people tend to be stressed out and unhappy). But of course this is not a problem to you, since what you only care about is Japan's "image", what's on the surface.

"one of the reasons why the Japanese people tend to be stressed out and unhappy"

Great. Another Nihonjinron offered by ex-pats. I guess Japan in it's entirety is on a verge of going "postal".

So you only care about how you feel, and not how others feel. It doesn't matter to you whether it's something that they really want to do, or they were merely forced to act in a certain way by being pressured by the society.

No. Because I don't bother wasting time evaluating such nonsense especially in light of that fact that unless you are a mind reader, you'll never know.

-6 ( +2 / -8 )

I guess Japan in it's entirety is on a verge of going "postal".

If you look at surveys, then for living in a wealthy developed nation, Japanese people aren't very happy overall.

No. Because I don't bother wasting time evaluating such nonsense especially in light of that fact that unless you are a mind reader, you'll never know.

It's simple deduction, and a little observation. You admit that Japanese people mostly act "polite" because they are pressured to do so by the society, right? Or the very least, it doesn't matter to you. If they are pressured to act in a certain way, then it's not something that they really want to do. And if they're acting in a way that is contrary to how they really want to behave, then it doesn't take a genius to conclude that they would eventually become tired, unhappy and stressed out, because it would wear them out.

-2 ( +2 / -4 )

A long term foreign resident's opinions on the matter of Japanese etiquette and social conditioning is (in many cases) just as valid as a Japanese person's..Not only that, the foreigner will have the added benefit of being able to juxtaposing the two cultures....One does not have to be completely fluent in the language or understand all the cultural backdrop or cues to be able to come to the determination that the Japanese on the whole are pretty stressed out. Just my 2 cents...

0 ( +2 / -2 )

Wow, it's amazing how the years have made some of the long-termers here forget how things are in the rest of the world. I've been here as long as any of the other long-termers but fortunately the country has not made me bitter towards the locals like some of the other folk.

Let's just accept the truth all, ok: Japanese people are generally very polite. There are people who are exceptions to this rule, and there are some behaviours Westerners would consider to be impolite. But by and large, Japanese people are very polite. Anyone who says otherwise is wrong.

-2 ( +2 / -4 )

Strangerland

Let's just accept the truth all, ok: Japanese people are generally very polite. There are people who are exceptions to this rule, and there are some behaviours Westerners would consider to be impolite.

Well, I'm not saying that the Japanese people are impolite. What I'm questioning is whether they are polite because they want to be polite, because they think that being polite is a good and moral thing to do, or it's because they are merely pressured to act in a certain way by the society. I don't think that people can be either 100% one or the other, it's probably generally a mix of both, but I would lean more toward the latter.

If the Japanese people really "desired" being hard-working and polite and all that as they claim that they do, then you would think that they would actually be happier doing the things that they genuinely enjoy doing. Yet the Japanese tend to not be very happy, they are ranked 90th on subjective life satisfaction index, very low for a wealthy developed nation. So the fact is... they don't really enjoy being enforced upon how to behave by the society. Sure, it's good for the society, but it's not necessarily good for the individuals.

"Politeness" (and working hard, etc) is so "culturally" ENTRENCHED within the Japanese society... that there is no other way acting. But I'd say that it's more of social control. They say that it's part of Japanese "culture", but I'd say that it's ingenious social engineering crafted by the Japanese elites and bureaucrats. They wanted to design and create a society that runs and functions smoothly like a well-oiled machine, and they have actually achieved that to some extent, but at the cost of taking away individual freedom.

-2 ( +2 / -4 )

Well, I'm not saying that the Japanese people are impolite. What I'm questioning is whether they are polite because they want to be polite, because they think that being polite is a good and moral thing to do, or it's because they are merely pressured to act in a certain way by the society.

Why would you think this only applies to the Japanese? The same questions could be asked of anyone from any culture who is acting politely. Generally politeness means repressing one's own desires or impulses for the greater good. Enjoyment of such has never been a requirement for politeness. Only the act of acting polite is required for politeness.

What I'm trying to say is that it's irrelevant whether or not the person "wants" to be polite (which by very virtue of the fact that they are acting polite means they wanted to be). All that is relevant is whether or not they are acting polite.

-2 ( +2 / -4 )

If you look at surveys, then for living in a wealthy developed nation, Japanese people aren't very happy overall.

And yet this unhappiness which should lead to tremendous amount of stress resulting in many medical problems still result in Japanese having the one of the longest life expectancy in the world.

It's simple deduction, and a little observation. You admit that Japanese people mostly act "polite" because they are pressured to do so by the society, right? Or the very least, it doesn't matter to you. If they are pressured to act in a certain way, then it's not something that they really want to do. And if they're acting in a way that is contrary to how they really want to behave, then it doesn't take a genius to conclude that they would eventually become tired, unhappy and stressed out, because it would wear them out

And you know it's "genuine" based on the same deduction theory? How about the individual's background on religion, where he/she was raised had that custom, or more importantly their parents taught them that way? Unless you take a survey to each that you encounter, there are really no way to determine this ambiguous pure genuineness that you often cite. It's meaningless.

.

-8 ( +1 / -9 )

Japan is a country of rules, routines, and rituals. Politeness implies a feeling of kindness, wanting to be nice, helpful, considerate to other humans beings. The three 'R's do not require such feelings. A few examples: holding a door open for the person coming after, or saying "after you"; saying 'thank you" to the person holding the elevator doors open while everyone gets out; looking a shop cashier in the eye, smiling and saying "thank you"; saying "excuse me" when you get off a train, rather than just pushing someone in the back; giving up your seat to a needy person on a train.... and so on. None of these are part of Japan's 3 'R's; all of them require feelings of niceness and appreciation for other human beings. Or, at the very least they require you to notice the existence of other human beings.So they just do not happen. They do not fall within the required rules, routines and rituals. But "We Japanese" are still the most polite people in the world, according to their limited, blinkered and erroneous definition of the word "politeness".

0 ( +3 / -3 )

He is trying to stereotyping Japanese manner in his image" He should learn more Japanese. "Damare", "baka yarou, shitta kaburi o suruna" etc.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Well, you can't possibly be polite ALL the time. In some situations, it's more appropriate to not be polite. But in Japan, there is no choice, you have to actually BE polite all the time. Which is why many Japanese can't realistically deal with conflicting situations; they tend to either "blow up" (inappropriately), or denigrate themselves so much that they "give up before the fight". It's probably one of the reasons why "apologizing" is such a common occurrence in Japan: It's a way of avoiding conflicts.

They never had the chance to properly learn and adapt when conflicting situations arose. They had to rigidly and mechanically adhere to the regular rules and routines. The fact that there is no choice in the Japanese society is why the Japanese don't tend to seem "genuine" when they are being "polite". Because it's not natural or spontaneous, it's forced out of them, their actions are not based on their genuine feelings (although it doesn't mean that they can't be, but in general).

-1 ( +3 / -4 )

Anyone who says otherwise is wrong.

Great argument.

What I think bothers many "outsiders" is the feeling of dishonesty when it comes tonJapanese people's "manners" It certainly irks me. It's always the same: the newbie talks about how well mannered and polite the Japanese are when first coming here. Then, as you start decoding the society, you realize much of this "politeness" is nothing but a veneer of what seems to be the correct way to act. There is very little genuine sincerity. You do realize this evey time you say "konnichiwa" and are met with a "nihongo jozu". It feels fake - a lubricant if you will to make things go smooth. At first, you confuse this for friendliness. As time passes you understand it is nothing of the kind. It starts feeling forced.

0 ( +5 / -5 )

Perhaps the big difference is that western foreigners act politely and friendly because they want to and and it's a visceral response to an everyday situation. Japanese on the other hand act in the manner of what's expected of them. On the other hand, that's why you might see way more verbal and physical fights in western countries ...So being genuine has its good points and bad points

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

Japanese people speak with each area dialect. Fukushima people speak with Fukusima dialect. Fukushpeople's polite talks will not be spoken in Tokyo., Ho-gen, we call. Fukushima people do not speak the p[hrases he wrote. Also, Japanese say Gyogi, Sahou, not mana, Manner is pronounced manaa in Jqpanese way. He is "uso tsuki".

1 ( +1 / -0 )

I think that the Japanese society can ENCOURAGE people to be polite and hard-working, instead of pressuring them to act that way... but they didn't choose that method. The Japanese elites came up with some ingenious (albeit morally questionable) solutions when they were designing the modern Japanese society... like creating propaganda that insisted that the Japanese were inherently virtuous and polite... and so therefore they ARE polite and virtuous (very circular). The problem is that nobody is inherently good or polite, you learn and develop those skills over your lifetime.

"Politeness" is so ingrained within the Japanese language, culture, society, system... that it's hard to break out of it. It's probably also one of the reasons why the Japanese people tend to stop being polite when they're no longer speaking in Japanese, or when they're living in a foreign country, or when there's no social need to be polite, like when they're on the Internet anonymously.

Obviously, the Japanese CAN be both genuine and polite, and the Japanese society, at least on the surface, is fairly mild and is not too harsh. But they'd need to move away from and go beyond the old and outdated method of managing society.

0 ( +3 / -3 )

If JP is so polite, why is smoking still allowed in so many public places?? Do you like your kids breathing smoke and getting illnesses? If that woman was so strong about telling a foreigner where to put his rubbish, why doesnt she fight the other 80 million smokers out there? Throwing a cigarette butt on the floor is not as harmful as breathing in the smoke everywhere you go. Being polite has many forms, just because JP uses many apologetic words doesn't make them more polite. Being judged wrongly wherever you go is lack of respect, this is experienced all too often in JP.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

@Offwith: If the stpty was true, the woman must be in jail for damaging the man''s clptjes and attacking jis body with fire. His story is a full of lie. Japanese females are not treated as people in Japan, especially by cops. Polite because the man accepted her attack on him? Uso after uso in his story.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Maná is a Mexican rock band from Guadalajara, Jalisco,Not Japanese language.

malfupete: Which Final Fantasy you are writing? XI or older one. Sony Playstation has games.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Tokyo has the best manners I could ever experience from Ushuaia to Hawaii going clockwise.

Most likely a bit too much actually, which makes it inherently a bit boring.

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

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