Sunday, December 18, 2005

A plain, brown paper wrapper

One of the sights I've come to know and love around Tokyo comes in a plain, brown paper wrapper.

In America, we think of a plain, brown paper wrapper as something that might contain porn. I was suspicious the first time I saw it. Turns out that plain, brown paper wrappers adorn all books sold in Tokyo (and maybe all of Japan—I don't know for sure). The first time I bought a paperback book, the clerk quickly and skillfully folded a plain, brown paper jacket around it and dropped it into a paper bag, which was then dropped into a plastic bag. (Yes, the Japanese are into overkill when it comes to wrapping things!)

After giving this some thought, I realized that many Japanese read books on their daily train rides. While they may have to ride crowded trains, like sardines in tin cans, they apparently want to maintain their privacy when it comes to their reading tastes.

I've also noticed that the books are quite short—maybe only 100 pages or so. If you're an aspiring author who wants to write for Japanese consumption, you would do well to remember the K.I.S.S. rule. I don't see anyone here lugging around huge, 800-page books, no matter how popular they might be in America. Most Americans have cars and don't need to consider how much weight to put into a bag they have to haul around on a shoulder all day.

So, small books in plain, brown paper wrappers, are quite practical.

Now, if only something could be done about the businessmen who carry sleazy newspapers or magazines and insist on reading them in front of everyone—children and old ladies included. One time, in the middle of the afternoon, I saw a businessman sit with his sex-kittens newspaper folded for all to see as he read something on an inside page. A little boy around 7 or 8 years old jumped out of his seat and dashed over to the man, stood in front of him, bent down and had a good look at the newspaper. The man looked up and gave the boy a withering look. He reluctantly went back to his seat, but kept his eyes on the pictures of feminine delights in provocative poses.

Too bad that certain newspapers and magazines don't come in plain, brown paper wrappers.

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