Why are the Japanese so reluctant to help strangers having trouble in the train or on the street?

I’ve never been able to find a satisfactory explanation for this in a book about Japan, but I did find a decent candidate in Foreign Babes in Beijing. It says that hospitals are likely to hold even strangers who take someone to hospital responsible for the costs, and I wouldn’t be surprised if the police use the fact you are close as a convenient excuse to get their arrest rates up either. As Japan spent more of the last 400 years as an efficient police state than China has, I think that there’s a good chance if it has the same roots in Japan



  1. Michael said,

    May 26, 2009 at 11:59 am

    I guess also combine that with the Darinesque “you are on your own attitudes” (no welfare, through granny off the mountain when she is no longer useful, mental health sufferers should not be heard from,,,,,)

  2. alexcase said,

    May 26, 2009 at 8:43 pm

    You’re right, Social Darwinism is surprisingly alive and well in Japan. There is welfare, though- it’s just so humiliating getting it and so dependant on the judgement of the person you are dealing with (he or she will try to determine whether you are able to turn to your family or not instead) that most people don’t bother

    Btw, Obaaste-san (the mountain where old grannies are thrown away) is my favorite place name ever!

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