Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Japanese Hobbies #4: Sleeping


"What did you do on the weekend?"
"I slept."

If I had a dollar for every time I have had this conversation, I would have enough money to sleep every day for the rest of my life myself.

I am not sure why the Japanese sleep so much and do other things so little. Perhaps it's because so many things were organised for them when they were growing up that they never had a chance to find out what they really like to do. Or maybe it's because there isn't much else to do (pachinko anyone?). Or maybe what they claim is correct, that they are so tired from studying or working that any free chance they get is spent sleeping.

But I am skeptical of this claim. Partly because housewives and students (who hardly lack free time) also confess that sleeping is a hobby. And partly because a lot of the time they are not really working, just pretending. Indeed, workers often combine sleeping and working. The head of the Board of Education in my old town Nejime would sleep the afternoon away, his soft snores drifting through the partition from his office. At 4.30 I would head out the door, asking if he was going to go home soon himself.

"I'm sorry. I have to do overtime."

As an aside, it is truly extraordinary, a genuine Wonder of the World, that the Japanese can sleep so easily. Not only do they sleep on trains coming home at night, dozens in a carriage, head lying against shoulder in a cute and slovenly row, they also sleep on trains at 1 o'clock on a Saturday afternoon. They sleep on trains standing up, one hand holding the strap, swinging around 360 degrees and back again as the train goes around corners.

My adult students tell me they sleep through business meetings.

"Why?" "How?"

"Because it's warm and I'm tired"

My lover will sleep one metre from the TV blaring full blast. Her mouth lies open and I take photos and put them on my screensaver. She gets angry, but she laughs as well.

My students are so good at sleeping through my class that they can do it while holding a pen the whole time, thus diverting suspicion. I swear to God that I have seen several of them do this and take notes at the same time.

I have seen my friend in Kagoshima hold a conversation while sleeping. No words, just murmurings, but the intonation is spot on and he responds to questions. He even repeats his murmur if he receives no reply.

All this talk of sleep has led me to believe that I will go to bed. I leave you with a quote from D.H. Lawrence:

"And if tonight my soul may find her peace in sleep, and sink in good oblivion, and in the morning wake like a new-opened flower then I have been dipped again in God, and new-created."


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