Niko-niko is a word for smile in Japanese. It seems that nearly every person I meet here is smiling. Ever seen the movie Pleasantville? Yea, that's where I live.
Today after my lesson at the pre-school, I noticed the secretary lady (the one with the soroban) had her webcam on. The funny thing was, however, that she wasn't chatting with anyone, she was just using it as a mirror. She told me it reminds her to keep her happy face on and remember to smile while she is working.
Everybody knows that Japanese people think more about the team, the family, the group more than they think about themselves as an individual. So, even if a person is not feeling well, or may have something grim in their mind, they see it as an obligation not to bring everybody down with a frown.
Sometimes, it can get annoying though, when you are having a serious discussion or disagreement with someone, and you notice they seem to be grinning. There are also times when I am having a bad day and see someone coming down the other side of the escalator looking like they just found the end of the rainbow. Ugh.
I know some western people think that Japanese people are being fake because they don't show their true feelings in this way. A smile is just one of the many ways that they try to promote the happiness of the group.
Maybe I should work more on my own sunshine. For people like me who forget to put on their smile on the morning, there are mirrors around, like say, the on the train platform for reminding people to turn their frown upside down.