Before I came to Japan, I heard that Asians were stoic, that they smiled to conceal their feelings, that I would never know what they were thinking. So I was stunned the first time that I saw high school baseball players crying after losing a game. What poor losers! I thought. How unsportsman-like! I was also surprised to find that Japanese people often cried during farewell speeches. Even if they were teachers-in-training who’d only spent a week with the students, they would cry for sure when they said good-bye. I’ve lived in Japan long enough to know that crying is part of the culture. I understand now that it’s practically bad form NOT to cry after you’ve lost a high school baseball tournament game or when you’re saying good-bye. But in my heart of hearts, I’m still thinking, “Oh, come on. Try to have a little dignity.” I felt that way yesterday when I watched Mao Asada after she skated in the Olympics. She was the only medalist who didn’t smile or appear to be happy when up on the dais, and when she was interviewed immediately after skating, she couldn’t collect herself and she seemed bitter – not about losing out on the gold medal, but because she’d made a few mistakes in her program. I like tears of joy, and I often teared up along with the athletes who performed well (like Daisuke Takahashi and Kim Yu Na) but as one who comes from the country of “boys don’t cry,” I was sort of put off by the sobbing of Oda Nobunari.
My husband says that I don’t understand because I’m not an athlete. And supposedly Japanese people like to see crying because it’s a sign of sincerity. By Asada and oda’s tears, we can know that they did their best! But crying doesn’t play the same in every country. I can’t help thinking that when Akio Toyoda cried at the Congressional hearing yesterday, the Americans found him more weak than sincere. Perhaps what they felt was not sympathy, but something closer to contempt.