Tokyo with its extensive public transit system forces you to interact with hundreds if not thousands of Japanese everyday. One of the first observations you make is about Japanese sleeping habits. The Japanese seem to have the ability to sleep anywhere. It’s quite a skill, one that I look at in envy every time I’m on a train. I have this inability to sleep sitting up which drives me crazy because I’d love to able to catch a few zzzz s on my long commute.
However the Japanese aren’t born with a switch that allows them to sleep at the drop of a hat. They have a number of factors that assist them:
A) No crime – When I sit on a train I’m used to being in public in North America I grip my bag with a death grip even though I can’t sleep. This is to prevent a pickpocket or member of the thieves’ guild from slyly grabbing my bag while it is in arms reach. In Japan they don’t give a second thought to throwing their bag in the overhead rack, which on a busy train around 20 people can grab, and then sitting down on the bench and promptly falling asleep.
B) No space – Housing in the big cities of Japan is at a premium. Most families’ living room doubles as someone’s sleeping space or families from a young age all sleep together in one room. This encourages heavy sleep even if there is activity where someone is sleeping. Thus Japanese can sleep through anything.
C) Exhaustion – The two main groups on trains are students and salary men. Students in Japan get the least amount of sleep of students in all developed nations. The national average is under six hours. Then during the day they are generally overworked to the point of exhaustion which encourages them to sleep whenever they can. This continues later in life with salary men, who you see most on a Tokyo train also sleeping because they are so overworked. Which leads to another salary man factor, drinking.
D) Alcohol – It is part of Japanese salary man culture to get wasted as often as possible which of course leads to many people passing out from a combination of the above factors on a train.
If you like this then, you should check out more from the “Myths of Japan” series:
|Drugs in Japan Myth||Japan’s Gay culture||Divorce a Japanese Tradition||The American Occupation of Okinawa||Myths of Japan|