Mar 11, 2016
News: Freedom For Beards in Japan: Osaka Subway Drivers Take It To Court
Amidst more somber news that will rightly dominate the weekend in Japan, news rags have found something of a lighter nature to put out into the ether.
Osaka subway drivers go to court over freedom to grow beards Kyodo (March 9)
According to Kyodo, two drivers of the Osaka subway filed a lawsuit Wednesday against the other ‘suits’ at the Osaka municipal government. The two drivers claim their bonuses were, err, shaved, as a result of them, err, not shaving.
Both workers, in their 50s, are seeking 2.2 million yen in damages (about $20,000) for mental suffering, as well as the amount of bonus they missed out on.
According to reports, the two men had been hirsute for over 10 years. In 2012 the Osaka Transportation Bureau banned beards, prompting lower personal evaluations and reduced bonus payments for the two men. Adding a bit of comedy to proceedings, Osaka mayor Hirofumi Yoshimura said in response to the lawsuit, the bureau’s standards are “for letting passengers use the subway pleasantly” and therefore are “not excessive.” Brilliant!! Is there a policy on farting, falling asleep on the person next to you, puking, man-spreading, crappy ear phones, racing for seats, spitting, ….. having people hired specifically to squash commuters onto trains? All of which seem far more pressing concerns when it comes to one’s ability to ‘use the subway pleasantly’.
Then there’s Japan’s beard bias. What once was de rigeur for any samurai who didn’t want to be laughed out of the village, went on to soil the pants of anyone who considered themselves civilized. It reminds me of school back home. We used to have what they called Mufti Days, where we could come to school out of uniform. The people upstairs banned them though, as they thought without a uniform we’d be more likely to raise hell in the classroom. They were wrong. Students who wanted to be a pain in the rear did so regardless of what they were wearing.
Of my first ‘gig’ in Japan, teaching English to kids, the boss told us that all beards were no go. They would freak the students out. During summer holidays we used to ‘go crazy’ and have beard growing competitions.
Back in the 18th Century, the West went through a bit of a beard boom which did manage to gain traction over here among some of the elite. Perhaps the post-war years changed things though. People had had enough excitement, thank you very much, seeking solace and calm in clean lines and uniformity. But beards are back in the West … in a big way. They still face considerable opposition on these shores though. From The Wall Street Journal (May, 2010),
A Bad Week For Beards
This piece reported on Isesaki City Hall in Gunma Prefecture banning facial hair for male employees. With a similar sense of humor to that of Mayor Yoshimura, the article reports that the reason for the ban was due to the ‘discomfort’ it (a beard?) can cause residents. City officials are said to have received a number of complaints about hirsute employees, particularly those who didn’t shave after long weekends.
One would be tempted here to sigh and ask everyone concerned just to grow up! Although such language probably won’t go down well in a court of law. Hence our two hirsute heroes in Osaka are siting mental suffering. Which actually sounds equally ridiculous. Nope, perhaps it is time for everyone to grow up on this issue.
What do you think? Are you supporting the Osaka subway drivers and their freedom to grow beards?
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