Monday, October 18

Reading without Consuming

In most bookstores in Japan, one can read all day without being approached by any store owner or employee. Reading is not deemed "consuming reading material" as it is in many other parts of the world. Whereas in America, for instance, reading, like so many other things, is treated as if it were a subcategory of eating, in Japan, it is almost the absence of activity: a "down-time" in which one insulates oneself from the surrounding world of people and appointments, a pocket of private leisure inserted into public movement and sound. For this reason, in Japan's hustle-and-bustle cities, it is deemed both necessary and natural. Among its other uses and meanings, the activity, which goes by a name that literally means "standing-reading," allows high school kids to delay returning to their parents, husbands to avoid their wives, and so on.