MUSINGS / July 27, 2011
The Yomiuri Shimbun
The following is a translation of the Henshu Techo column from The Yomiuri Shimbun's July 27 issue.
* * *
As part of energy-saving efforts this summer, the Gifu prefectural government is advising its employees to use their paid leave to have a "siesta" between 1 p.m. to 3 p.m.
In Spanish, siesta means an afternoon nap, or an afternoon break that is long enough to fit a nap in.
Recently, businesses that provide people with beds in private rooms to take naps have proven popular in Tokyo's business districts.
Individual companies have introduced earlier-than-usual morning starts, offices are cutting down on air conditioning...Workers might be particularly prone to fatigue this summer.
The siesta break apparently is meant to encourage workers to have a sleep, even if it is just a few winks, during their lunch break to improve their efficiency at work.
A weaver is leaning down
On a weaving machine,
Taking a nap
This is a haiku by Masaoka Shiki (1867-1902).
In the past, people in Japan customarily took an early-afternoon nap at their workplace, on an engawa veranda or under the shade of a tree during summer.
Hirune, or afternoon nap, is a summer kigo (seasonal word) in haiku.
U.S. cultural anthropologist Ruth Benedict (1887-1948) wrote in her book "The Chrysanthemum and the Sword" that Japanese people, surprisingly, can sleep well in any kind of position and under any circumstances. She went so far as to praise sleeping as one of the Japanese people's "most accomplished arts."
With a folding fan in hand, a worker leans back in their chair and dozes off. This might be good advice for people trying to get through a sticky summer in Japan.
(Aug. 1, 2011)