Yesterday in a restaurant in Tokyo, someone at the table next to us lit up a cigarette. I asked my Japanese host if no one ever asked smokers to go outside. His answer took me by surprise: one is not allowed to smoke on the street. Inside is fine, outside is wrong. It’s the opposite of what we are used to in the West.
The point is not so much the reason for the Japanese rule (which is that a walking smoker often holds his or her cigarette at children’s eye level, hence may accidently blind a child – apparently, this has happened!), but the fact that cultural differences often baffle us. This is because we assume our own perspective to be the only one that matters or makes sense. The same applies very much to my field of primatology, which owes much to Japanese pioneers.