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The Crisp Linen Suit Syndrome

There are many strange things about Japanese fashion. There's the practice of wearing jeans with big turn-ups exposing smartly pulled-up socks. There's the strange phenomenon of friends turning up to meet each other, all weirdly wearing exactly the same outfit. And of course there's the "towel on the head" brigade. All of these things conspire to make the foreigner feel a little bit different, although usually we don't really care. However, there is nothing more guaranteed to make the unsuspecting gaijin feel like a lesser-developed, lower form of animal life than what I call the "Crisp Linen Suit Syndrome" (or CLSS for short).

Summer is nearly here and therefore so is CLSS. It's the most depressing aspect of the unbearable heat and humidity that hits Tokyo from June to September. This is how it works. It's August. You have to walk for eight minutes from your apartment to your local station. Despite your best efforts - wearing the minimum clothing possible without being indecent, covering yourself with your favorite antiperspirant from home, drinking a pint of water while walking as much as possible in the shade - you enter the train close to collapse. Your legs are shaking, your head is purple and throbbing, your water is gone, and when you lift your arm to hold onto the rail, a huge sweat-patch is revealed. Liquid is actually dripping from your body. Your makeup has disappeared and you fear an imminent heart attack.

You look around the train compartment for some support - a smile of understanding or at least someone else in the same predicament. But no, all you see are Japanese people looking absolutely pristine. They had to walk to the station too, but they're not sweating or shaking or tomato-colored. They are in a state of total and utter serenity. Every hair is in place, their make-up is perfect, and all of them - to your dehydration-induced distorted vision - are wearing what appear to be crisp linen suits. They're probably not wearing any such thing. The important thing is that you believe that they are. The important thing is the aura of cool, ironed freshness that they have.

The heat has not affected them. They're probably not even wearing antiperspirant. Some of them are even wearing tights. You are embarrassed to sit next to them for fear of leaving a wet patch. You are an inferior being, ill-adapted to the climate, praying for autumn to arrive as soon as possible. It's so hard to take.

Try not to worry. You are only suffering from CLSS. We all get it at some point. There's nothing you can do about this. CLSS is a fact of life. And because you are a foreigner, you can't even wear a towel on your head without feeling stupid. However, you can take comfort in the fact that other sufferers understand. You can sweat knowing that somewhere, on another train line, another foreigner is going through exactly the same trauma. Just don't stand too close to me on the train, that's all.

Many thanks to Elizabeth Clark for this Rant.

Metropolis Online
381: The Crisp Linen Suit Syndrome
Unbearable heat and crisp linen suits
380: Smile
Smile when you see another foreigner
379: What sign are you?
When signs start to complicate life
378: Off with the gloves
Battle of the readers
377: Stop before you shop
Stores that scare away gaijin
376: Home sweet home
Modern housing in Japan?
375: Nihonjinron
Theories of Japaneseness and insecurity
374: Plastic bags
Do we really need them for everything?
373: Doctor knows best?
A scary visit to a Japanese hospital
372: Don't forget the finger wagger
So you've never complained about Japan?
371: A-choob tale
The Sneezing Salaryman
370: The gaijin language snob
Dare to cross his path
369: Nihongo
One man's struggle...
368: Making sense of Roppongi
Why do I keep going back?
367: Hateus Japanus Expatricus
Great bar bores of the world
366: Plants and animals
Darwin's turning in his grave
365: No more groping - for now
Women only train cars
364: Man's best friend
Pets have it rougher
363: In praise of Tokyo taxi drivers
A good ride all around
362: The Big Boot Brigade
Masters of the oversized-shoe
361: The case of the missing garbage cans
Where art thou o garbage can?
360: Ramen for the soul
Japanese chicken soup
359: Revenge of the nerds Part II
Geeky guys with hot girls
358: Little old ladies
Grandmas packing a punch
357: Starbucks sanctuary
Stop the Starbucks insanity
356: Pet name problem
My sweet little... carrot?
355: Unclean Jeans
Jeans McNasty
354: My chosen profession
Lindsay Nelson's the name, English teaching's the game
352/3: Merry Christmas... sort of
Merry and not-so-Merry Christmas in Japan
351: Last temptation of rice crackers
Breaking big bills the hard way
350: Revenge of the nerds
Gaijin girls are just jealous

ISSUES 300-349
ISSUES 250-299
ISSUES 233-249