June 3rd, 2005 @ 12:13 PM Life in Tokyo
Everyone knows that the Japanese are the politest people on the face of the earth. I was completely amazed when walking into even a McDonalds in Japan and having the employees bow to me. In the trains I quickly learned to not talk to loud and turn my phone on “mana-modo.” If I was rude enough to answer to cover my mouth and quickly tell the caller to call me back because I’m on the train to which they would quickly understand and hurriedly say “OK OK, call me back.”
However, it would seem that these manners are quickly slipping among the Japanese youth. This however can definitely not be compared to the rudeness of youth in other countries since Japan is in it’s own league when speaking of politeness, but it seems that the youth are bringing it down just a notch.
When I first arrived, I was unaware that the young girl putting her makeup on in the train was being rude. But when she continued to concentrate on one eyelash for five minutes (not exaggerating) I smiled and mimicked her to one of my gaijin friends. Unfortunately, she noticed and gave me a super evil stare. As time went on, I learned what the do’s and don’ts were on the train and became so accustomed to the life that I actually began to see those eating and talking on cell phones while on the train as rude. It began to annoy me when people’s cell phones would suddenly interrupt the silence and I would be awakened to loud jabbering. Then I found out what a Shibuya girl was and how being rude was part of their identity. Once on a train near Shibuya there were a group of Shibuya guys and girls playing their cell phone ring tones super loud and dancing to it!!
It seems now that the international media has picked up on this phenomenon and I recently read an article about how manners are slipping among Japanese youth and wondered if it was due to the influence of the West or simply young Japanese trying to find their own identity by rejecting the social mores of their parents. The article now mentions that there are Sesame street posters which tell you to “Please fold your paper so it doesn’t take up too much room.” Does anyone have a picture of these characters? The last effort I saw from the Tokyo Metropolitan Government in trying to control behavior was directed at the “chikans” that depicted angry women and police nearby.