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Saturday, Sept. 29, 2001


Overwork, undersleep fatigue Nappon

You don't get the feeling insomnia is a problem in Japan. As a matter of fact, in Japan, a nation plagued by sleep, I'd say most people have the opposite -- "ainmosni," or the overability to sleep. In fact, one of the most common expressions in Japan is "Tsukareta!" (I'm tired!).

The two reasons for this are surely overwork and undersleep. Many Japanese work more than 50 hours per week. Thus, the Japanese are forced to get in their sleep time on the trains, at their desks and during office meetings.

I say: Bring sleep to the people! To do this, I propose the following changes to the Japanese system.

Solution #1: Japan should move to a 40-hour workweek and a 20-hour day. Although many people would argue that 24 hours is already not enough hours in one day, if we all moved to a 20-hour day, we could shadow the extra four hours and pretend they weren't there. From midnight to 4 a.m., the second hand would move at quarter-speed and everybody, unknowingly, would get an extra four hours of sleep every night.

Solution #2: Change the shape of the clock. The Japanese have never realized that time is merely a series of numbers from 1 to 12, written and arranged in a circle called a clock. Clocks are just a way of commercializing time so that clock makers, who have a patent on time, can sell more goods. In fact, if we had no clocks, we wouldn't care about time.

You're probably wondering, how was the shape of the clock decided anyway? Is the clock round because the Earth is round? No, everyone knows the Earth is not round -- it's globular. With warts. So it must be because the orbit of the Earth around the sun is roughly circular.

Well, I say to heck with tradition -- this shape should be challenged! A triangular clock would more effectively represent the three eight-hour intervals of the day: eight hours of work, eight hours off, and eight hours of sleep. You start the day at the bottom corner of the triangle, and when your eight hours of work is finished, the hand rounds that sharp angle and heads down the other side. Watches could be equipped to reach out and jab your wrist at each angle, so everyone would know when to stop and start working and sleeping activities.

If you think the triangle shape is still too traditional, how about something more modern, like the shape of Britney Spears?

Solution #3 Simplify time. Just look how confusing time really is: Why is 2:15 called a quarter past 2 but 2:20 isn't a third past 2? Why is 2:30 not 30 till 3? If 2:40 is 20 till 3, why can't we say 2:20 is 40 till 3? No wonder people have so much trouble managing time.

Time should be seen more for what it really is -- a unit of measurement. Time could be standardized to measure quantity in the same way as familiar measurements such as, say, quarts and pints. One quart could equal one hour. Since 4 pints make up a quart, 2:15 would be 2 quarts and a pint. Two quarts and 2 pints would be 2:30. A gallon would be four days. A bucket, one week. A fish tank, one year. A swimming pool, a lifetime. A pond, 200 years -- and the oceans would represent infinity.

Or, how about going metric with time? A millimeter would equal one second, and 1 cm would equal one minute. One hour would be 1 meter, one day a kilometer, one week a hectare. The rest could be measured in Zen.

Solution #4: If after incorporating these solutions, the Japanese are still sleeping at work and in public places, then I propose an easier solution: a new company uniform -- pajamas.

Contact Amy Chavez by e-mail at amychavez@excite.com. "Japan Lite" -- Japan's Best Humor by Amy Chavez, from The Japan Times. To subscribe for free, go to www.amychavez.com.

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