When a foreigner comes to Japan, they usually try to catalog and analyize all the strange things they see, but this is not an easy task. When I first got here, one of my overall impressions of the country was that "everything was about death," since there were so many potential faux pas, such as sticking your chopsticks upright in your rice, that were related to funerals. One powerful engine at work in Japanese society is known as hito no me (hito no meh), lit. "the eyes of others," and much can be understood through this concept. When I got my first apartment, I was told that gomi (garbage) could only be put in the specified pickup area on Wednesday mornings. I worked late and tended to sleep in, so I figured it was okay to put my trash out the night before...but I soon learned that I'd broken a serious rule when the silent, disapproving eyes of all my neighbors fell on me, forcing me to conform. Back during my single days I used to take long trips by train using the "Youth 18" tickets that let you ride anywhere you want for $25, as long as you don't mind taking the slow local trains. Because I knew trains in urban areas get crowded, I brought along a little folding chair so I could sit down on the train if all the seats were taken. I'd forgotten about hito no me however. Since no one ever brings their own chairs onto a train, I found myself quite unable to do it, knowing how the disapproving stares of everyone in the train car would make me feel. (There's even an onomatopoeia "sound" of intense staring: jiiiiiiii!) I consider myself quite a rebel, but it would have taken more courage than I possess to unfold my chair and sit down on that train.
Sometimes it's impossible to avoid conforming to society.