01 July 2010

No shirt, no shoes... get arrested?

In one of my kids classes a couple of weeks ago my kids asked me what I wore in Canada (they only ever see me in suit pants, a collared shirt and a tie). I told them that in the summer I wear shorts and a t-shirt, but if it's hot I just wear shorts. They lost their minds. They told me that kind of thing would get you thrown in jail here. I assumed they thought I meant I go to restaurants and stores without a shirt and just laughed their comments off as a lost in translation kind of thing.

A few days later Aimee and I were stretching after one of our runs in the park I took my shirt off to cool down and went about my stretching. This caused some curious and outright scandalized stares from passers- and runners-by. Thinking there may actually be something to this topless nonsense my kids were talking about, and not wanting to further scandalize anyone, I put my sweaty shirt back on.

The next day I asked one of my near-fluent adult students what the big deal was with taking my shirt off. He smiled and told me that if a policeman had seen me he would have come over and told me to put my shirt back on. I thought he was kidding but he assured me that it was illegal for men to walk around without a shirt on. I was stunned.

Let me tell you about some of the things I've seen in Japan that are far more scandalous than me running with my shirt off:
  • a homeless man at the train station masturbating while staring at one of my American friends (I didn't actually see this but it came up one night while a bunch of us were out. I found this absolutely hilarious and chastised her relentlessly for not taking a photo of the guy. Brief aside: the situation reminded me of that episode of It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia where the homeless guy masturbating in the alley stares at Dee.)
  • more skirts-that-are-short-enough-to-be-panties than you'd see at a Victoria's Secret runway show
  • Japanese men looking at magazine porn while riding the subway
  • Japanese men looking at manga porn while riding the subway
  • Japanese men looking at internet porn on their phones while riding the subway
  • Japanese men looking at porn videos on their iPods while riding the subway
I run three times a week in 35+ degree weather with a humidity level that is as close to 100% as is possible before it starts to rain. I don't want to masturbate at the train station. I don't want to wear a really short skirt. I don't want to look at any kind of porn on the subway. I want to run with my shirt off!


  1. Wow, that is insane.

    What about when you go to the beach/pool? Do you wear swim shorts and some special man-bikini-top?

    Welp, now you know how it feels to be a girl!

    But a police man would probably ask me to put it back on.

  2. Apparently at the beach/pool it is okay. But that raises the question of how far away from the beach/pool can you be topless? It's all a little silly...

    It's legal in Ontario for women to go topless in outdoor public places but I'm not sure about BC. I'm not sure you'd want to run topless anyway Rose - I'm told that breasts are already a pain in the ass to run with even when they're strapped down with a sports bra.

  3. I actually think running without a bra is really fun. But then, I don't have large breasts, so...

    It always makes me think of that Monty Python sketch where the guy chooses death by topless women.

  4. I've not seen that sketch before. There are a lot of Monty Python sketches I haven't seen before though.

  5. Anonymous24 July, 2010

    I took of my shirt when riding my bike they just tell you to but the shirt back on. I have seen oral sex in public parks, old men urinating on the train tracks from the train station, and an exhibitionist standing on the busiest street on Sunday morning masturbating in front of traffic! Weird country, weird rules if a fat teenager shows her ass on the train it's ok but take of your shirt people go nuts.

  6. Yeah it is a little weird how messed up the priorities seem to be. But I guess it's like that in every country in one way or another - I'm just used to Canada's eccentricities.

  7. Hi! I'm a friend of Aimme, and we've met before.
    Japanese men seem to be think porn is a kind of Japanese culture so they don't hesitete to see it in public places. But interest thing was they were strongly against the posters of pregnat females in a train. Some of them told those were disgusting. And lots of Japanese men and a part of women are against the regulation for child porn because it can harm the Japanese culture like comics and animetions. So we haven't had these kind of laws yet.

  8. I didn't realize that that's why pornography is so common. And it's kind of strange that they would find pregnant women offensive... Thank you for the information!

    I think that the lack of child pornography laws in Japan is pretty disgusting and I hope it changes soon.

  9. You should run without your shirt some day just for the heck of it, and just keep running when the policemen come after you. The thought of a bunch of angry policemen running behind you on a jog is quite funny.

  10. The Japanese police force is not to be trifled with - especially as a foreigner. Even if they didn't want to throw me in jail for 21 days (without a reason and without having to contact anyone to tell them where I am; and without having to provide me with food - somehow I'd be expected to provide that myself) they could tear me limb from limb the same way a child tears the wings off a fly - without a care in the world.

  11. I discovered your post while searching for info on running without a tshirt in Japan. I do it all the time. However today, I ran past a police box and there was a copper standing outside. As I ran past he shouted over to me to put my tshirt on. I gave him a thumbs up sign and just kept going.

    I'm not convinced it's actually illegal. Something happens to people when they put a uniform on...somehow they think it gives them a right to tell other people what to do.

  12. I never did find out for sure whether or not it was actually illegal. You're definitely right about the uniform giving a sense of power and authority to people who otherwise wouldn't act that way.