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Overworked? Japan’s Public Napping Considered Virtuous

Update Date: Jan 31, 2017 11:35 AM EST
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Public napping in Japan is considered virtuous as long as one follows certain rules of etiquette. "Inemuri" is a Japanese term which means sleeping while present, and is considered as a subtle sign of diligence among the workforce in the country.

Brigitte Steger, a senior lecturer in Japanese studies at Downing College, Cambridge said that public napping in Japan is an illustration that the napper has worked so hard to the point of exhaustion. "Inemuri" is common and acceptable among the older, white collar workers. Younger employees are more energetic and can actually stay up all day.

However, Steger also said that "inemuri" is not considered as sleep at all. While it is totally different from night time sleep, it is also different from taking an afternoon nap or even a power nap. The Japanese term is often translated as sleeping on duty.

People who want to go on public napping are encouraged to follow certain rules like not taking up too much space. Women should still look modest while on "inemuri." The Japanese workforce is reported to sleep less than six hours a night, and public napping has become a necessity.

Japan has been practicing public napping for the last one thousand years. It is not restricted only in the workplace, but is also seen in other places like cafes, restaurants and stores. Sometimes, a worker can also be seen doing an "inemuri" in a busy sidewalk.

Interestingly, public napping in Japan can enhance one's reputation. New York Times reported an incident where a guest fell asleep at the dinner table. Other guests complimented him because he chose to stay in the present and sleep, instead of excusing himself from the event.

According to Theodore C. Bestor, a professor of social anthropology at Harvard University, it is unlikely that someone will be robbed while in "inemuri" in Japan. A country with a very low crime rate has encouraged public napping among the exhausted workforce.

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