Why do the Japanese jump level crossings?

I see a shocking amount of this on my walk to work, and I say that as someone who is regularly ticked off by policemen for being the only person crossing the street at a red light. So, why are the Japanese, famous for happily waiting for the green man on completely deserted streets, perhaps more likely to rush across the train tracks – and that despite the motion sensor buzzing at them for doing so and the regular news stories of people being killed on train tracks?

First of all, this is yet another example of how the Japanese are not, as some assume, “law abiding”, they simply follow what the majority does, also seen at the few streets where people do regularly run across when the red man is showing, a whole stream of people following each other up the wrong side of the station stairs, etc etc. More importantly with level crossings, this is a perfectly rational reaction to the typical safety overkill by Japanese organisations (and the people who work for them). Perhaps as a reaction to people jumping them, the level crossing gates close long before they need to, but this of course makes people more likely rather than less likely to continue ignoring what they say. In the worst cases, gates are only open for a few seconds after ten or fifteen minutes closed, adding up to only five minutes or so per hour. Better to ignore such an arbitrarily decided closing of the gates than be late for work or to meet a client.

Knowing people’s reactions, trains also tend to travel slowly over such busy level crossings, making it even safer for people to cut under closed barriers, and hence goes on the merry dance of counterproductive Japanese safety overkill. At times it’s almost as bad as my own country’s “health and safety culture”…


Why are Japanese anti-cannabis laws so strict?

e.g. 7 years for growing your own weed…

Here are some explanations from a very interesting Japan Times article on the history of cannabis in Japan:

‘Following the country’s defeat in 1945… the U.S. authorities occupying Japan brought with them American attitudes toward cannabis. Washington had effectively outlawed cannabis in the United States in 1937 and now it moved to ban it in Japan. In July 1948, with the nation still under U.S. occupation, it passed the Cannabis Control Act — the law that remains the basis of anti-cannabis policy in Japan today.

There are a number of different theories as to why the U.S. outlawed cannabis in Japan. Some believe it was based upon a genuine desire to protect Japanese people from the evils of narcotics, while others point out that the U.S. allowed the sale of over-the-counter amphetamines to continue until 1951. Several cannabis experts argue that the ban was instigated by U.S. petrochemical interests in a bid to shut down the Japanese cannabis fiber industry, opening the market to man-made materials such as polyester and nylon.

Takayasu locates the cannabis ban within the wider context of U.S. attempts to reduce the power of the Japanese military.

“In the same way that U.S. authorities discouraged kendo and judo, the 1948 Cannabis Control Act was a way to undermine militarism in Japan,” he says. “The wartime cannabis industry had been so dominated by the military that the Cannabis Control Act was designed to strip away its power.”’

Why are there men with red sticks everywhere in Japan?

A man indicating to me that I shouldn’t jump over a fence into a deep hole in the pavement never fails to irritate me, and I know I’m not alone in that reaction. According to the BBC radio programme From Our Own Correspondent, there is an actual regulation that imposes a certain number of such people on every construction project, presumably just to keep unemployment down – and I always try to remind myself of that to keep the annoyance down…


Why don’t more Japanese write wills?

“In Japan… individuals don’t write wills; they express their wishes in vague and polite terms, but nothing is written down. The property laws specify how the estate should be divided among the family, strictly proportioned according to their relationship to the deceased- fifty percent for the spouse, ten percent for each child, and so forth. The law is used only when families have disputes. Otherwise, all the property goes to one person chosen by family consensus- everyone else signs forms to give up his or her legal claims, as I did. Inheritance is another example of how things are done in Japan: the public law is clear and mathematical; in private practice, families reach consensus without any open discussion”

Polite Lies by Kyoko Mori page 53

Why are boxy little cars only popular in Japan? Second Attempt

The Japanese tax code classifies cars by length and width (as well as the engine size and power that are more common elsewhere). For details of an interesting example, see this Sunday’s article on keijidosha (軽自動車-lit. light motor vehicles, usually translated as “subcompact cars”) in the Japan Times here.

Why are there so few lawyers in Japan?

Firstly, the famously difficult exam that you have to take to become a barrister in Japan is set by the Bar Association, ie practicising lawyers, who obviously have good financial and status reasons for keeping the number of lawyers as low as possible. Another factor is that many of the top law graduates in Japan have no intention of becoming barristers because getting a job as a public servant or in a large company is more common and traditionally at least as high status. The third factor is that many of the things done by trained lawyers in the US etc are done in Japan by the aforementioned people in government and business, as well as by scriveners, notaries, patent clerks etc. The well known cultural difference theory that Japanese don’t like sueing each other is probably the least important element.

And to illustrate how few there are, a little bit of Japan by Numbers: Read the rest of this entry »

Why does my gym have no smoking signs in the poolside showers?

I really do mean in the showers, not just in the shower room! It’s under a hotel, so the only thing I can imagine is that once in the halcyon smoking days of the 80s hotel guests would sit around the pool on loungers (even though it is indoor, but I saw someone doing that in the Iidabashi Konami Sports today) having a puff. That is strictly my imagination, though. Any better theories?