After living in Japan for over two years, (the countdown has begun... only ten months left!) I have come across many interesting and different things. In the last two years I have grown accustomed to the new experiences. Going back to 'normal' sounds so... boring.
In the first few months of living in Japan I saw many people sleeping in odd places. And not just on a long train ride, but in restaurants, at bus stops, and at their desks. But the more I think about it, I see that Americans don't sleep enough. Maybe someone can explain why the American culture generally equates sleeping during the daytime with laziness.
I discussed this with a Japanese co-worker who laid out the "typical" Japanese person's day. She wakes up very early to get ready for work. She rides her bike from her apartment to the train station. It is about 3 kilometers (1.8 miles). She then takes the train 26 minutes to the stop nearest our work. She often dozes on the train, but says she sets a vibrating alarm on her phone just in case. After exiting the train station in Iwakuni she rides another bike (kept overnight in the bicycle parking) the 6 kilometers to base. We work together. She orders a bento box from a delivery service that is allowed on base. She eats at her desk in about fifteen minutes. For the rest of her lunch hour she sleeps. We work the afternoon together and then she does her entire route in reverse. Some days she goes out to a restaurant near our office and sleeps in the restaurant. If she drives to work she will sleep in her car.
To an American, I feel like she sleeps a lot. And this is coming from someone who has established their adult bedtime to be 8:30pm. During our discussion I brought up reasons why an American would sleep in their car.
- We are sick.
- We are too drunk to drive and will sleep it off until morning.
- We are homeless.
- It is actually a dead body.
Then we discussed reasons an American might sleep in a restaurant.
I had nothing. We don't sleep in restaurants because people would think you're strange, possibly homeless, maybe drunk, and you run the risk of being kicked out of the establishment.
So this gets back to why sleeping in public has such a negative inkling.
Once while on a long road trip I started getting sleepy. I'm usually the driver for our long trips because I'm a bit of a control freak. After a bit I decided to pull off, sleep for a few hours, and then we would continue our journey when I was rested. Better to rest than to drive tired, right? Not twenty minutes into my nap, did a police officer pull up with full lights and tell me it was forbidden to sleep in my car.
In Japan I have gotten used to seeing people asleep in public. I don't worry anymore if they are ill or in need of assistance. They are just catching a few winks to make the afternoon more enjoyable.