I can’t stop talking about the Times article on the Japanese vending machine costumes. These aren’t Halloween costumes, mind you. They’re wearable hiding places.

A clothing designer has developed folding fabric contraptions that can turn a normal outfit into a giant facade or even a four-sided replica of a Coke machine. The presto-chango disguise is one of many clever deceptions designed to trick would-be thieves and attackers in the night. (See also backpack/ticket machine and manhole cover/purse.) The products aim to cash in on the public’s rising fears of crime, even though the actual numbers are dropping. Sounds familiar.

Anyway. The article is full of delectable bits of hilarity. And this bit of jingoistic nonsense:

While Americans want to protect themselves from criminals, or even strike back, the creators say many Japanese favor camouflage and deception, reflecting a culture that abhors self-assertion, even in self-defense.

Wait, so it’s a sign of our collective cojones that we hide guns and Mace in our pockets because we’re scared the kid in a hoody on the subway wants to steal our iPod and probably kill us too. That’s right! Americans are strong and assertive. Full of self-confidence…like subway vigilante Bernie Goetz.

I had sort of the opposite take. Maybe the Japanese impulse to hide says something about a reluctance to swagger into danger. I don’t think that counts as an abhorrence of self-assertion.The Japanese response to fears of crime struck me as creative and inventive. And although I wonder if the disguises actually work, they are less likely to piss off your assailant so much that he or she just kills you in anger. The cloth contraptions also don’t provide criminals with new weapons to turn against their victims.

Now I just need to figure out how to get one before Halloween.

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