Inemuri (Present While Asleep)

The concept of the power-nap is familiar to most people, however in Japan the practice of taking short naps during the day, specifically in public spaces, has become commonplace and, more interestingly, socially acceptable. It is known as Inemuri.

The Japanese word Inemuri, which roughly translates as “being present while asleep”, may not be very familiar to most Westerners, but within Japanese culture it holds an important significance beyond the literal definition of the word.

The word and practice itself really took off in the nations postwar economic boom, more commonly known as the “Japanese economic miracle”, which lasted from the mid 50s, up to late 80s. During this period the nation experienced rapid growth and established itself as one of the world’s major economic powers (second only to the United States). As a result, daily life was hectic. People filled their schedules with work and leisure appointments, with very little time for sleep.

The Japanese prided themselves on being known as the hardworking nation that never sleeps. So hardworking, in fact, that the need to catch up on much-needed rest wherever one could – on buses or subways, at ones desk or at railway stations – became established and acceptable.

Whereas in Western culture dozing at your desk may be grounds for dismissal, in Japan being seen to need a nap during the day was an indication of working hard, showing how dedicated you were.