Since I moved to Japan, I’ve been amazed by the abundance of ugly brown paper poking my already brown eyes with it’s blandness all over the place.
I would never dare saying they don’t have enough creative people in Japan to make pretty book covers that you want to show the whole wide world. I mean come on, creativity in Japan is like that bulge in a man’s trousers always catching your eye, (and holding it there) with their crazy game shows, dress sense and sex industry, from porno-manga no “no pants” bars.
So, if you want to put that extra effort to blend into the crowd, I suggest each time you take a book with you on the train, you have it covered in that bland brown paper. It’s free in bookshops anyway. No tourist does that (so be prepared to actually ask for it), but if you put that effort you will make a pretty clear statement that you are indeed, a local (well...).
But as any smart person, you’d probably like to know the reasons behind such a lovely tradition. I carried out extensive research among the Japanese asking them why on Earth they do such a thing and here’s what I discovered:
Top reasons to cover your book in an ugly brown paper, even though someone had spent millions on artists to create a beautiful cover:
- If you are reading a book that would imply your intelligence ( “Exploring Corporate Strategy” as opposed to “Skinny Bitch in the Kitch” ), by not hiding the cover, you make the Japanese around you think you’re a hopeless show-off. In Japan, you don’t want to show-off. Moreover, nobody likes when you show-off. So, don’t show-off.
- Actually, if you’re in Japan, you’re probably not reading “Hamlet” anyway, chances are you’re reading some perverted book about a 12 year old girl being seduced by a salary man in his 40s and penetrating her ear, so yeah, hide the cover. The Japanese guy in front of you is probably reading the same book, and that might be quite awkward.
- If you are a woman and decided to read on the train instead of doing more productive things, like applying make-up and improving your chances to get a good (i.e. rich) husband, then be aware that reading a book makes you look old (i.e. over 25), somewhat intelligent and thus, particularly unattractive.
- If you are reading “Skinny Bitch in the Kitch”, nobody should know you’re on a diet. Of course, everyone knows you ARE (35kg is totally chubby in 日本), but that should be your darkest, most embarassing secret. You also shouldn’t be reading books about cooking, as your attractiveness plummets if you reveal you’re not a natural born cooking-master-potential-wife.
- You don’t want to bond with strangers. Why would you ever want to know what your neighbour is reading and start a conversation about it with him?
Some general tips:
- They offer the paper for free when you buy books. And (how exciting) the paper is going to have the logo of the shop you bought the book in! (Although, I’m sure the Japanese would love to delete that too, it reveals where you potentially buy your books and that’s already too much bonding with strangers)
- If you are a publishing company, you can save millions! And I guess they do, because 8 out of 10 Japanese books don’t even use artwork on their covers.
- If you are an artist specialising in book covers, you will probably be unemployed and working in a combini part time. Although, why not start a business offering artsy papers to cover the books?