Minding my manners

Manners Banners

“You are Japan master.” I swear to you these words came out of my roommate’s mouth and were directed to me.  She spoke English too (kind of), so there was no miscommunication due to my terrible Japanese.  What prompted these words of praise and acceptance??

My good manners.  I shit you not.

After four years of living in Japan, I now mind my manners.  Well, I mind Japanese manners when I associate with Japanese people, so unfortunately you all will probably never benefit from my newfound politeness.  My life is now lived in マナーモード, “manner mode”.

I never talk on my cell phone in public places–neither indoors nor outside–and the ringer is always off except when I’m in a private space.  Eating is similar; there is no way I will eat or drink anywhere other than at a restaurant or at home, not even a sip of bottled water while walking in Tokyo’s summer heat.  Jaywalking is out; regardless of traffic, I wait for the crosswalk light to change.  I will carry trash for miles until I find the proper trash can or recycle bin. I never suffer socks with holes in them, and wearing shoes indoors makes me cringe.  My dishes are washed, dried and put away within ten minutes of finishing a meal; laundry is on an equally strict schedule.  I expect to wait in line frequently for long periods of time without complaining.  Before doing anything, I ask permission from everyone who might be involved, no matter how peripherally they will be effected and no matter how minor the matter.  “Please”, “thank you” and “sorry” are the most common words in my vocabulary.  Although mastering the silence of Japanese daily existence is probably forever beyond me, my friends in Tokyo–people who have know me for years–have described me as a “quiet person”.  Again, I not joking.

Eating is public is like ripping your neighbor’s heart out and eating it in front of her.

Politeness Zone

Phones should be on “manner mode”, aka silent or vibrate. Backpacks become frontpacks to prevent you from unknowingly bumping into others. You are only one person, so make sure you only take up one person’s space–no laying down on the seats, sitting with your legs spread out, putting bags on the seats or taking up excess arm room by unfolding your newspaper to read it. Thank you for your kindness.

Using your cellphone in public worries young women and makes old women cry.

The correct way to ride the escalator–standing on the left, walking on the right.

The ladies on the right are obviously not from Tokyo.

Even the most beautiful symphony is just noise when overheard from someone else’s headphones.

I’ve been afraid for my clothing more than once too.

I saw a similar sign that said, “Walking with a lit cigarette is like carrying a 400 degree fire at the level of a child’s face.” If nothing else makes you quit smoking, that should do it.


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