27 January, 2017

A nation of naps

In Japan, napping in the office is common and culturally accepted. And in fact, it is often seen as a subtle sign of diligence: You must be working yourself to exhaustion. From here:New York Times article 
Indeed, sleeping on the train at any time of day or night is acceptable, no one blinks an eye. I took this photo last Friday mid-morning. The Art Director for the magazine I manage works as a full-time teacher at a private girls high school He frequently works past midnight on the magazine and I asked him how he copes. He says it's not uncommon for him (or other teachers) to nap at their desks at school. Nor it is frowned upon, as the article I've cited above says.
A 2015 government study found that 39.5 percent of Japanese adults slept less than six hours a night.
So it's not surprising that they are napping whenever they can. Indeed it seems to be a nation of chronic exhaustion! 

I've just spent time with two friends doing English-Japanese language exchange, though in my tired state we ended up talking in English more today, and a lot of our conversation was about culture, not language. 

They asked me why Western-style schools don't have very much homework. Then qualified that the question was more about vacation homework.

I replied that our kids do indeed have lots of homework, just only during term-time. I asked them back, "Why do Japanese kids have homework through their longer holidays?" They didn't have an answer for me.

It really is very culturally related. Australians value their holiday time. People look forward to long holidays, talk about them, plan them, etc. A two-week holiday is quite common, but almost completely unheard of here in Japan. So giving kids a long holiday doesn't even enter their minds as something that you would do, I suspect.

I try to think about culture as things that are different, not "we're right and you're wrong" kind-of mentality. But I wonder in this case, how good this chronic exhaustion is for children, and indeed, for the whole nation.

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