Japanese manners – part 3

In part 1 of this series, you saw a video about dropping litter in bicycle baskets, and in part 2 I showed you a commercial aimed at stopping people from eating on trains. Both of these videos are part of an ongoing effort to improve manners in a country where you can pretty much get away with anything, because very few would dare tell you off.

The following video, sadly not the final version that made it onto national television, addresses a different problem. We know that Japanese people like to avoid confrontation, hence the need for the previous two commercials, but there is another, perhaps more serious problem caused by people’s “shyness”.

Because of Japan’s densely populated cities, there are hundreds of towering apartment blocks. These are homes to hundreds of people, many of whom are single, living alone. The problem is not knowing your neighbors. Let’s say you see someone suspicious lurking around the building, or perhaps there’s a fire. Would you warn your neighbors? If you hear someone screaming, or the building rattles in an earthquake. Would you check to see if your neighbors are okay? Most Japanese living in these huge apartment buildings wouldn’t.

This video shows two young guys in an elevator, both on their way down to throw out their rubbish. They probably meet at the same time every week to do the same thing, but never say a word. The man on the right is holding a newspaper with the headline, “Earthquake magntitude 5”, and the caption halfway through the video reads something like “Would you help your neighbor whose name you don’t know?” Finally, they both decide to introduce themselves and the video ends with “start conversation, start it yourself”.

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