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Saturday, May 8, 2010


The era of the 'small woman' is gone forever

Japanese people are definitely getting taller, along with the people of other countries around the world.

In the United States people are now commonly over 180 cm tall. But has anyone considered what will happen if this growth doesn't stop?

Old Japan has already been rendered fairly useless to young people who cannot fit into those tea houses or sit at traditional school desks or even Community Center tables.

In response, futons are being made longer, doors are being made higher and even kotatsu table heights are increasing.

It occurred to me, while dancing on the tables with some friends the other night, that the era of the small woman is perhaps gone forever. And I'm the tail end of it.

At 150 cm short, I'm in the category of "really small" women. A little larger than a speck.

Almost all women younger than me were born with a bit of the Eiffel Tower in them, or a touch of the Statue of Liberty. I was born with a shade of the little fat laughing Buddha.

Nowadays, people can change light bulbs without a ladder, and they can reach the top shelf of book cases on flat feet. But many of my daily activities are still performed with either a wooden step or on my tippy toes.

I must have the strongest toes in all of Japan. I don't need to go to the gym to strengthen my calf muscles either. If there was toe sumo, my tough, calloused toes would win.

I feel sorry for the small women in Tokyo who have to hang on to the straps on the crowded subway. For small women, it's akin to hanging from monkey bars.

Usually all the blood has completely drained from our arms and they're a centimeter longer by the time we reach our destination.

But I did gain height and lose some weight when I came to Japan. At least it seems like I did, anyway. "Fifty kilos" sounds a hell of a lot lighter than 110 pounds and "150 centimeters" sounds a lot taller than 4 feet 11.

"Let the people get bigger!" I say. Because the world of the small woman will get roomier. While all the other taller people are pushing barriers, banging their heads on door frames and raising the standard for door heights, the rest of us small people just glide through.

Soon Japanese tea houses will have big, wooden castle doors on them. Train seats will be made bigger. Small people's comfort level will border on ostentatiously grandiose. Economy Class seats will be as big as First Class for us.

I dream of being like Gilda Radner's character on Saturday Night Live, Roseanne Roseannadanna, in a big JR train chair all to myself.

Us small people will not be part of the JR head-bobbing passengers drifting off to sleep. We'll be more like cats, happily curled up asleep in our chairs. The JR trains will have become giant behemoths by then, and people will be buying up the old JR trains as model trains for their kids.

I have more shortness to look forward to as I get older, including shortness of breath. I'll become a little bent over o-baachan, not due to any vitamin deficiency, but due to hunching over a computer for so many years. I won't even need to duck to get through a dollhouse door.

The tall people will also lose height though, as their necks will be permanently bent over from years of texting on cell phones. Unless someone comes up with a new method of teaching one-handed typing on cell phones without having to look at the keyboard. That's a huge multi-task though.

Soon, the typical Japanese old man will look like Ichibod Crane or Ebineezer Scrooge. People will have giant bent-over grandmothers who push o-baachan carts the size of American shopping carts that they can hop into when they're tired and play bingo via Twitter on their iPhones.

But not us really small women. We'll be the only ones still dancing on the tables.

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