This morning on the train the salaryman sitting next smelled like last nights sake bottle, 2 high school boys sitting across were admiring and fondling each others nice expensive haircuts, the construction workers were reading novels instead of smartphones…while everybody else slept, played smartphones games and so on…a regular morning commute.

One of the things I’ve always admired about Japanese culture is the respect of borders and private lives of other people. This is easy to see on my daily commute as people go about their business without paying attention to others. When a friend from America visited with her family in 2019, she remarked how quiet Japanese were on trains. Now I don’t mind people talking on trains, but the big loud voices of talking American that carries into the next car always amuses me.

The respect of borders also plays out in how people don’t take much interest in the quirky habits of others. If a married man likes to cosplay in a frilly school girls uniform and walk around Shinjuku, what’s the big deal? ‘It’s that person’s life, they have the right to live how they want.’ American love to say that too but I never see them put words into action. If they did we would’t see the endless so called “cultural wars”.

The same principal applies to LGBT issues. In more than 30 years living in Japan I have never experienced hostility to being gay. Most Japanese are indifferent, a ‘so what’ attitude compared to the western cultural fetish of labeling people. Japanese are much more interested in what kind of human being you are, and your ability to respect other peoples borders.

That’s the interesting thing, the Japanese respect of personal borders is surprisingly flexible and practical. On the other hand Americans who profess freedom violently violate other peoples borders, in the name of freedom. How borderless, and inflexible, is that?