Japan 1 – The Japanese

The Japanese are as polite as they are handsome.

The politeness is taken to extremes. One of the first things we noticed at the airport was the incongruous sight of the four bus attendants bowing deeply (I suspect to us, the customers) as the bus left the station. When the attendant at the National Museum asked Ciara to put her bottle into her bag, he bowed as if in apology. I can’t imagine that at The Met or The Tate.

The Japanese men are whip thin for the most part. You see it in the serried ranks of young salarymen as they march on and off their trains. Purposeful and neat in their dark slimline suits and white shirts. Low sized and fit looking. Natural.

The women are neat too, and those  bound for their desks dress quite conservatively. Cardigans, dark skirts and tights, even in summer sunshine. No dye in their hair. A bit stockier than the men, though some of them are skinnymalinks too.

The women who work in retail or bars are glamorous, made up, high heeled, and with colour in their hair. Some are stunning. Outrageously beautiful.

Of course these are all only outward appearances, and I am seeing these people with my own and biased eyes. But it’s not difficult to look at them. And to be among them, if only  as an outsider.

I sense a discipline, a great social contract within them. And I do admire that. Yes, the level of conformity is excessive, perhaps. Two sides of the one coin. And then, when they do rebel… More on that later…

And, as to what they think of the  likes of me…


Novelist, short story writer, essayist, sports writer. Crime novel: Whatever it Takes due out 31 July 2020. The First Sunday in September, debut novel, published in 2018. Mercier Press, Stinging Fly, Irish Examiner, Irish Times, The42.ie, Holly Bough, Honest Ulsterman, Quarryman, Silver Apples.

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