by Ewa Nowogorski
When you think about gossiping and people talking negatively about other people behind their backs, the picture to your right is exactly the image you should have about how it goes in Japan. An ironic twist to the culture you know where sharing your opinion and being rude is frowned upon, gossiping is actually very common in Japan, and different groups of people gossip about different standard topics.
The most gossipy people are middle aged and older women who either only work part-time jobs or have been housewives all their lives. Clearly some have too much free time on their hands. But all rude jokes aside, you will often see a group of 2 or 3 women crowded around in a circle on the street or at a cafe, talking about someone who is not in the group. It will always be an acquaintance that all the people in the group know. They’ll be talking about their lives and criticizing them, the usual for gossiping.
Neighborhood noise and gossip can be such a big issue that a Japanese man literally started a website mapping noisy neighbors and children on the streets of Tokyo. On this website you can post and view areas that are prone to noise, with the type of noise being identified. This is sort of a self-policing and shaming system that the prefecture has created privately.
In the workplace, people gossip about annoying coworkers and superiors to relieve stress. It’s a common way to relieve stress, and people probably do it without realizing because it’s such a common everyday occurrence. Gossiping is a regular thing, and everyone is always comparing themselves to other people. They can’t help themselves.
People will tell you that they don’t like gossiping, but in the end will still do it themselves. It’s human nature.