Feels hard to believe we’re back home after an extraordinary journey to Japan! I had really high expectations, as it was my dream trip, but they were absolutely met. The best part of it was the cultural journey! We’ve learnt a lot about the country in the few days we were there. So here’s a few things I’ve learnt
Honour and keeping the face
In Japan honour is really important. Unlike western countries where we praise the individuality, in Japan everyone wants to be average, and being average means following the rules, what society expects of you, being a good and dedicated worker and keeping your face. They will do whatever it takes to maintain “their face”. For this same reason, Japan ends up having one of the lowest crime rates in the world. Just the thought of the shame of being caught doing something wrong is enough for them to follow the rules and not commit crimes. The downside is that they swallow their feelings and they don’t say what they really feel. They avoid looking you in the eye, they really do.
I have never met another culture where work is so important and so central for the society as it is for Japan. Every work is perceived as an important one for society and all of them are done with commitment and perfection. In most western countries certain jobs are always avoided unless if there’s no other choice like cleaning the streets. Not in Japan. It’s work and it’s needed, so they really commit into doing their best no matter what. I’ve found this really impressive. I think it wouldn’t be bad for the rest of the world to learn a bit with them. They really value people committed to the company and that have stayed there for a lot of years. The more experience you have the more respectful you will be. They also work really long hours. Unlike most big cities, the rush hour in Tokyo starts around 19h and it’s quite normal for people to leave the work at 22h! They avoid confrontation and they try not to lose their “baka” (patience), this is why they have a lot of funky places like karaoke and sake bars. Which leads me to a funny learning:
This is a term only used in Japan and it describes the alcohol effects while people are going back home after a few drinks after office hours. This is not shameful, as people excuse it because he’s been too overworked. Japan has quite an issue with alcohol, as it’s one of the only escape routes they have after behaving according to the rules 24/7 and never breaking up. If you are travelling to Japan please check the status of the platform, I almost fell because I was not paying attention and it was literally on the platform. Disgusting!
Linked to the point of honour and keeping the face, I found them so respectful, peaceful and humble. They are always really polite to you everywhere you go. Ladies are really elegant and classy, both in the way they dress but also the way they behave. There’s no shouting, no talking loud. We seriously ended up whispering in the middle of the street. No joke! It’s just so peaceful and quiet in 99% of the places, we really don’t wanted to disturb that quietness. Even on the trains we’ve avoided talking to each other to keep the silence. There’s no one with loud music on their phones or talking loud. It can be such a bless, really! I wish we had more of that in London!
Perfection and Kaizen
They really strive for perfection and they know they can’t get perfection on their own, so all of them work together to get there. I had the best cappuccino, the best doughnuts and some few other things in Japan which I wasn’t expecting. This happens because whatever they do, they try to perfect it, step by step.
Money and tips
When paying for your bill ensure you leave the money in the metal tray and avoid giving it directly to them. The reason being is that they don’t like to have money in their hands as only the prostitutes would be paid directly like that. Most places have a small metal tray. The other thing is, because of the honour and perfection they don’t accept tips. Everyone is expected to exceed at their job so they don’t tip.
Overall I felt quite at peace in Japan and was easily following the same principles everyone else was like the little bows, the “arigatou gozaimasu” and the whispering when talking to each other. You don’t see much differences between rich and poor and you will see in other countries. Richer people will dress in better clothes, but they are not flashy as they always try to fit in and follow the average. Same reason you will barely see fat people, if you do they are most likely to be foreigners. I’m so looking forward to be back!
Have you been in Japan? Any lessons you would like to share?