Why no sunglasses, Japan?


Exile Atsushi, usually seen donning shades, wants to change his image. The crew of Shabekuri 007 helps him out. http://www.ntv.co.jp/007/

The ability to observe without evaluating is the highest form of intelligence. – Jiddu Krishnamurti

The desire for meaning that makes us ask “why” prevents us from practicing what J. Krishnamurti calls the highest form of intelligence, observing without evaluating. When I think about the motivation behind the “why” it often seems like a weak portion of my psyche that needs that “why” like an alcoholic needs a bottle of Jack Daniels. It’s the ego.

The ego that wants to feel significant. The ego that doesn’t care about the creative process and wants to repeat things mechanically so that it can reproduce the feeling of significance. “Why” sounds a lot like “I” and “whine”.

Let me tell you a story to show you what I mean.

Today, I met someone, let’s call him Frank, who claimed that Japanese people don’t wear sunglasses because there is a social stigma about anyone who wears sunglasses. He said that if you read comic books you’ll see that the shady characters always wear sunglasses.

Before I go on, let me just say that there is this thing that many newcomers to a country do when they’ve been in that country for more than a month. It starts with noticing all of the differences between your culture and the culture you’re living in. It ends with defining, usually incorrectly, the culture around you that you are filtering through your limited understanding of the world. It’s only human to do this, but it gets us in trouble when we open our big mouths to speak a “truth”.

I’ve been in Japan from mid-January to mid-July, which spans from the coldest winter month to the dead heat of summer. From my limited experience, Frank is mostly correct about his first assertion that sunglasses are not as commonly worn in Tokyo as in some parts of the United States. I can’t speak for the rest of Japan because I have not spent enough time outside of Tokyo.

This is where I usually go on a spiel about illusions and consumer society blurring the concept of normality. I’ll spare you that part and just get to the pragmatic basics of it. If you’ve ever been to Tokyo, then you are probably aware that fashion is a big deal here for women and men alike. People care about how they look. It’s not hard to see that for the more serious bunch each item of clothing was chosen meticulously to express the version of themselves that they wanted to express that day.

A majority of women in Tokyo put on full makeup every time they go out. I doubt that they want sunglasses messing up their makeup and hair.

During the week most men wear business suits or dressy casual attire. The demands of corporate business overrule any desire to wear sunglasses.

You can see why many people don’t wear sunglasses given the above factors. Add in other factors like commuting by train, tall buildings that block out the sun and hours spent inside at work or school, and you get a pretty low demand for sunglasses.

Frank didn’t care to observe without evaluating. He didn’t really care about the eyes of the people walking around Tokyo. If he did, he would start a campaign to encourage the use of sunglasses. What Frank really cared about was “why”. Why didn’t everyone else wear sunglasses so that he could feel more comfortable wearing sunglasses? Why can’t they be more like him?

“Why I?”


4 thoughts on “Why no sunglasses, Japan?

  1. In sociology classes we were asked constantly to set aside our own values, traditions and “norms” to see the why’s of behavior in other people and groups of people. I believe it helped me better understand others and not be so quick to “come up” with an answer as Frank did.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Another thought: In a society that seems so interdependent on socializing and personal connection, you cannot see someone’s eyes (the windows to the soul) and have a real connection to them if they have on sunglasses.

    Liked by 1 person

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