This is the Japanese art – or gift – of ‘inemuri.’ In the most sleep-deprived nation on Earth, the Japanese talent for falling asleep anywhere – on trains, in elevators, during meetings – is both necessary, and admired. In Japan’s workaholic culture, falling asleep out of exhaustion is a testament to hard-work: only slackers get a full night’s sleep.
There are still rules. Try to keep upright – no lounging. And inemuri is particularly encouraged for the folks on the lowest and highest ends of the totem pole – middle managers miss out. But beyond that, Japan doesn’t observe the same sleep taboo that exists in much of the Western world. As long as it doesn’t ‘endanger the social situation,’ a power nap is hardly ever out of the question.
And, yes: people fake it. But even when Japanese workers are genuinely sleep, they still seem to maintain their composure: somehow, no commuter ever seems to sleep through their stop.
I always did say, if we all just took a nap the world might be a better place!