Voyeur Japan

by Jacek Glowacki
(Canada)

Voyeur Japan: Cover your mouth






An interesting thing happened to me during one of my morning excursions. As so often, I followed my usual morning routine, which included the morning shower,healthy breakfast, or a breakfast closely resembling the healthier version of itself, and the painstaking application of hair gel and after-shave, before leaving my apartment. It was a beautiful day and I was full of energy. This light hearted mood was suddenly turned into curiosity and confusion as a passing,middle aged Japanese woman, unsubtly placed her hand over her mouth and nose.



I can not deny that at times I have been known to excrete a fair amount of sweat and there with associated odors, however, after having spent a better portion of a recent half hour under the relaxing stream of a shower and having indulged in an excess ofsoap and shampoo, the witnessed reaction has thrown me into a complete state of bafflement.



Yes I am a westerner, but I am not completely ignorant of some of the habits and customs of the Japanese. My ignorance of the hidden customs, however, does not go as deep as to omit the very obvious politeness of covering ones mouth with a cloth or a face mask in case of a cold, which is how I explained the woman`s behavior.



Each and every time that I step onto the trains of Tokyo, I am presented with the opportunity to witness the interactions between strangers on the crowded Tokyo JR and Subway lines. It took some time getting used to seeing people wearing face masks but in the end they become as invisible as the novelty of hearing the Japanese language.



I have approached some of my Japanese acquaintances with a burning question. What was the mouth covering about? In my case this would have been the perfect opportunity to express several confidence diminishing, concerns,-- which pretty much were the types of answers that I have received. Perhaps you forgot to change your shirt? Maybe it`stime for a shower?; One suggestion was made which mayhave shed some light on my little dilemma, which wasthat my after shave may have been too overwhelming. It was brought to my attention that the use of cologne,perfume or aftershave is not a regular practice amongst the Japanese.



The mystery of the mouth covering has until this day remained just that. The one bit of wisdom that I have been able to gather from all this, is that being ableto know and to understand all of Japans hidden customs, traditions and other quirks, is virtually impossible as a foreigner, since not even the Japanese are able to tell why most of the customs in Japan are done the way the are and for what reasons. Even though Japan may be going through a very rapid and very intense westernization process, Japan as a country will maintain its mystique and beauty as a country of the orient.





Voyeur Japan: Editor`s Note:

In my opinion Japanese are use to different smells than we grow up with in the West. To them some of the colognes, perfumes, or even the shampoo we use may smell too strong. Japanese will notice that we wash our clothes with Downy. Fortunately they like the April fresh sent! Some have complemented me on it saying my clothes smell so good.

Voyeur Japan -- The Smell Issue

It swings both ways, I think Japanese smell different than we do. Some Japanese are rude and have little concern for how their reactions may be interpreted. There are jerks all over the world.

Japanese will travel abroad and state "such and such a country smells." I will correct them and say such and such a country smells different, or if I am feeling fiesty, I may say, "Japan smells too," which it does. Some of the sewers seem to waft right up into my nostrils at times.

Most Japanese are pretty polite, but if you live here long enough you get past that stereotype that all Japanese are friendly and polite, they aren`t. Some are, some aren`t just like anywhere else.

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