Catcalls & the Japanese Construction Worker

In the U.S., women walking past construction sites pretty frequently attract whistles and comments. In Japan, where decorum and manners are paramount, especially among strangers, I’d never once seen that happen in 10 whole years of living here–until recently.

Lately, I’ve been walking past a construction site on my daily trips to the market with the mini in the carriage. Every time I pass, one of the guards calls out, Kawaii bay-bee! Kawaii mama! (“Cute baby! Cute mama!”) The first few times he said it, I thought he was saying something about the weather or rain coming (rain in Japanese is am-e, which sounds a little bit like “mama”). Then I realized what he was really saying, and I was surprised.

Granted, he’s about 4’10” and looks to be pushing 70, with about as many teeth as my 11-month old. But then again, I’m 47, sleep-deprived, not nearly back to my pre-pregnancy body, and perpetually dressed in either old yoga clothes or what could pass for pajamas.

So I’ll take it.

5 thoughts on “Catcalls & the Japanese Construction Worker

  1. Coming from South Florida, beaches and allover, filled with bikinis and people checking each other out, I was so accustomed to the culture of catcalling, in every language, that when I got here, I noticed the lack of it. No one looked at me! Not even out of the corners of their eyes! No one seemed to notice the gorgeous woman who walked past a sidewalk of construction workers or plain…men! I didn’t see or hear any of it. It was strange. Good and decent, but strange, compared to what I had been used to. Love that you captured this here, in the post, with your off-color humor about how you “elicited” this exchange. Very cute.


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