It’s rare that I get enough personal space in Japan. This might not be a surprise to you since everyone knows Japan is a small, crowded country. But even so, the lack of respect (or need) for personal space is somewhat shocking.
I was in a fairly crowded train on the way home from work today, but it wasn’t so packed that you had no space. A couple minutes after I got on, I feel a woman’s arm knocking against my head. I turned a little to find a fashionably dressed woman holding onto a strap above me while talking to a friend. It didn’t bother her one bit that she kept bumping against my head. She could dress to the nines and she’d still be lame.
The worst is when people are trying to get through a crowd. Many Japanese literally use their hands to shove people aside. I really don’t think they think about what they’re doing, and they certainly don’t understand how rude this is. But it’s maddening.
It doesn’t stop with trains. I will never forget a United flight I took from San Francisco to Tokyo about five years ago. I point out that it’s United because it’s used by price-conscious Japanese (i.e. less traveled i.e. less sophisticated). I was sitting in the center section in economy, one seat in from the aisle with my seat pocket stuffled with magazines and books that I brought to read during the flight. About an hour in, I notice an arm reaching across from the aisle towards my magazines. It was a 50 something old Japanese woman, who seemed to feel like it was her God-given right to reach in and take what she wanted. I was speechless. Then, if that weren’t enough, the woman next to me reaches in for a magazine. She claimed that she thought the magazines belonged to the airline.
That just pissed me off even more. Even if it were United’s, I obviously had it because I wanted to read it. Besides, even the most unsophisticated idiot knows not to touch someone else’s seat pocket. It burns me just to think about it.