Is Japan Heading Toward Only Three Levels of Politeness?

Is Japan Heading Toward Only Three Levels of PolitenessWe never thought we’d be old. Somehow, being the cranky old person who muttered under his or her breath about those rotten kids didn’t fit the image we had of ourselves. That being said, we have embraced crankiness to the point where we embarked upon the behavior far before our time.

Now we learn that demanding dignity and respect from young people comes with a price:

Japan has witnessed its first case of mascara rage at a subway station in central Tokyo.

In what is surely the result of the influx of Western culture, manners in Japan have declined. Oh sure, you still have your bowing and saving face and opening doors for people with large packages, but those kids…those surly, sneering kids…ah, to be young again. But we agree that this move toward Western rudeness needs to be stopped; if not, what else does the United States have to feel superior about?

The Tokyo Metropolitan Government has taken the step of convening a commission of eminent experts known, without a hint of irony, as the Study Group Relating to the Prevention of Behaviour that Causes Discomfort Among Numerous People in Public Places.

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How bad is it really? To the Westerner in Tokyo, the most obvious examples of bad manners are those common all over the developed world. Thoughtless cigarette smoking, bellowing into mobile phones and the enraging tinkle that emerges from headphones of a Walkman are universally acknowledged as irritants; but there are specific Japanese forms of rudeness.

Respect for personal body space is cast aside when getting on and off trains, and many Japanese men have no compunction about reading pornography in crowded carriages.

In related news, members of Parliament will no longer be treated with indulgence if they read comic books during floor debates.

(via Planet Japan, a great podcast about life in Japan. Also cows.)