What a coincidence.Two foreigners I’ve recently met at a cafe (one, a gentleman from Pittsburg, another, a lady from Brussels) told me their first impressions on Japan, which was almost similar.
The man told me that Japanese rarely speak to strangers in public. The lady told me that Japanese neither pry nor get too much involved in other’s business (at least) in public. They both feel easy in the atmosphere and see these characteristics as one of the best virtues of Japanese society.
However, their viewpoint split eventually, which was interesting to me. The Belgian lady also told me that people tend to separate public and private so separately that they are too independent of each other. While the American man told me that strangers tend to be often too talkative to him, which made him uneasy when he was in the US.
I guess what they mean “public sphere” in their context is different from those in the Western sense. However, the question remains what is public spheres for Japanese, now that I am unaware of these as virtues in my daily life. I see people separate their public and private selves]. Do we try so hard not to shame anyone in public so that we keep good ties in the community we belong to? Otherwise are we only reluctant to be isolated from our community?
I would like to return to this sort of comparison from time to time. This is indeed too big a question to discuss in this short blog, but too important to stop thinking in depth.