Thoughts about closeness and private space

I think the Japanese have a split relationship to closeness and private space. Some thoughts:

  • It is rather uncommon for Japanese couples to openly demonstrate affection for each other in public. Teenagers walking hand-in-hand is about all you ever see – if at all. Of course, it’s a cultural “thing” that also manifests itself by not shaking hands for example. Maintaining private space is important.
  • On most train/subway rides during rush hour that very private space is obscenely violated. You stand chest to back or back to back with total strangers. The fact that some men abuse this closeness to get their hands on “female body parts that are taboo for strangers” is only the sick culmination of this development (there are designated women-only coaches now).
  • I recently visited a Toastmasters meeting in Fukuoka, Japan. One of the members, a young lady who works at Fukuoka’s international university, talked about her upcoming “Global Communication” speech. She complained about foreigners invading her private space when talking to her. Japanese keep a certain distance respecting each others private space even in a face to face conversation. That lady stated that foreigners often stood too close to her during a conversation or that they kept their face too close to hers. I can see that there’s indeed a need to talk about global communication. A very interesting observation; I wish I would still be around to hear her speech.
  • Also in Japanese Onsens there isn’t much privacy. While men and women are separated (except for family onsens) everybody is naked in an onsen. After all, one of its main purposes was to clean your body. That was back then when one didn’t have running water and showers in each and every household. So, a few or a few dozen total strangers share the same cubicles to wash themselves and relax in the same couple of pools with hot water – all naked. Where’s the desire for private space here?

One thought on “Thoughts about closeness and private space

Leave a Reply