© Keith Waddington 2002

a brief pictorial guide to contemporary japanese society (with pics)

We all know that Japanese folks love to commute. Actually, they can't get enough of it. But when they do get enough of it, well, rather than waste time doing nothing, they like to catch forty winks. They nod off—and we all know that a nod is as good as forty winks.

Of course, commuter trains are as jam-packed as sardines in jam sauce. That's why the Japanese practice sleep standing. Sleep standing is like sleep walking, though with less leg movement.

Well, this is lovely, I hear you saying: but what about floppy neck? Good question. Sleep standing has definite floppy-neck dangers. There is, however, a fine solution.

Actually, for the less than hard-core commuter, sleep sitting implies certain floppy-neck perils. Once again, no problem.

Once at work, the men get down to work. Meanwhile, the women sit around prettifying, lovelifying and gossipifying the office, wafting their eyelashes with sufficient vigour as to cause occasional drafts. These winking women are hired as future wives to the working men. Once the nuptials have been tied, untied, twisted and stretched, the women leave the company and become homemakers. (It's okay, Japanese homes are very small and easy to make.)

If this sounds rather old fashioned and a bit sad, fear not: Japanese men are keeping up with the times and now play their part in the tricky job of child rearing.

Only the baby knows the difference.

And while the baby gobbles away, you can be sure that mother is making something very tasty for herself and hubby. And there is nothing tastier than a bowl of watery noodles. We all know that Japanese slurp oodles of noodles, enjoying a caboodle of noodle delights; but this national pastime is not without certain thermal hazards.

Culinary conundrums are magnified, multiplied, modified and purified when the humble homemaker ventures beyond the realm of uncooked fish and watery noodles. When she stumbles into that still uncharted territory of “Western Cooking,” well, she may lose all sense of direction. As always, Japanese inventiveness and love of convenience will help her out.

And remember, if spreading butter ever hampers your eternal progress, the best solution is the least practical solutionn .