From: Peter Rivard
Date: Mon Apr 28, 2003 6:48:06 PM Japan
Subject: A nation of grannies
I just got an email from one of my kids from the English seminar (Asuka), and she closed with a line I see in many letters, and that many people actually say to me. It's not merely a politeness, but usually comes across with genuine concern. "In these days, it is cool. So be careful you don't catch a cold." This is from a seventeen year old girl, and when the temperature drops, she worries that perhaps her friends are going outside without sweaters. My kids tell me this all the time (usually the girls, but not always), as do my colleagues. They'll follow up by asking about my blanket situation and heater settings, just to be sure I'm safe. In three years, I still haven't figured out the national terror of the common cold. Generally, the Japanese take being sick more seriously than we do ("Why do anything halfway," they think), but the cold thing is a singular phenomenon. They certainly don't believe in taking obvious precautions against lung cancer or or infant deaths in traffic accidents (you'll never hear a teenager warning his friend not to start smoking because it could kill him someday, and the thought of putting a child in a seat belt, never mind a safety seat, would strike most parents as perverse), but the thought of a cold strikes fear into their very hearts.
An interesting people.