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Blowing

How distasteful is it to blow your nose in public? Darren (Hey, if only we had TrackBack!) wonders about this because he's heard before that in Japan it's bad manners to do so. Yes, it is, in general. Then what do we do? Find a place where you can blow your nose in private. If not, then do the job as quietly as possible. Or simply sniff - which would be most unfavorable in other cultures. It used to be like that, I think. Actually, how nose blowing in public is regarded in Japan may depend on the situation and person now.

I asked a ninth grade class about it yesterday (Hey, blogs promote international understanding!). I asked them if nose blowing in public is bad manners in Japan. At first they didn't seem to get what I was asking about, but, after a brief interval, most of them answered "Yes." I asked them why. One of the students said, "Because it's hashitanai." Hashitanai! I was surprised to hear this, not because of the meaning of this word, but because of the expression itself that I didn't expect them to utter. Well, it's a challenging job to explain the meaning and connotations that this adjective gives. It means like -- of bad form, distasteful, inelegant, rude, improper, not modest, not maiden-like ... anyway, a beautiful old word. It's not altogether a rare word to be heard, but I was kind of impressed that this elegant word lives in ninth-graders' vocabulary. Hm, a little exaggeration, maybe. So, anyway, yeah, it would be hashitanai. Why hashitanai? Hmm...well, at least it's not something you're willing to see, is it? Others said, "Dirty!", "The noise!" Yes, we wouldn't want to draw attention by making a loud trumpeting sound especially in a quiet place. Interestingly, a boy student exhibited an evident aversion to the practice, while a girl said she doesn't care a bit about it.

So, all in all, nose blowing in public is not at all a taboo-like thing here, but something we'd like to avoid if possible. I think things have been changing. Because of the recent spreading allergies like hay fever, people seem to have less distaste for nose blowing than before. In fact, some of my students carry a box of tissue with them at times, and play the trumpet frequently during class. After all, some people care, others don't.

Comments

Hi Kiyo! It's nice that our blogs promote international understanding and that I actually influenced one of your class conversations! I appreciate the feedback, and the opinions of your 9th graders. Of course, I'd just like to say that I don't like listening to someone blowing their nose, but I guess we are more tolerant towards the 'blower's' situation!

I will try to remember 'hashitanai' - sounds useful!

Yes, you are right about the trackBack! Oh well... later!

Now that I am here.... I can say that yes it seems to be impolite, but not on a train! (I've seen many people blowing their noses loudly on the trains to school) :p

Hi, Yashiko! How have you been? Yeah, and, you know, many Japanese are bold when they know they are anonymous. ;)

A couple of years ago, I was in Japan during the allergy season (March, 2003). At dinner one evening, three of the five people present were sniffing so loud that I would have left the table, had it been polite to do so. Eating under such circumstances immediately lost its appeal, and the sound of all that intermittent sniffling and snorting was something I hope never to hear again. This, to my way of thinking, is infinitely greater hashitani than to simply turn ones head briefly away from the table and blow ones nose discreetly into a handkerchief or a tissue. It's a custom I cannot understand. The Japanese people are so incredibly polite and wonderful, yet I find this aspect of behavior, as would most Americans, appalling.

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