Several Things We Can Learn from Japan

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It has been 12 months living in this country and there are countless things I always get amazed with. Looking back, when everything sank in towards the end of March last year that finally I’d be coming to Japan, a lot of mixed emotions were felt. Thought I’d be so lonely and homesick when I get here. But this country proves me completely wrong. And so far, there has never been a single day I regret coming and living in one of the beautiful places in the world.

The longer you wait and pray for something to happen, the more you appreciate it when it finally arrives. Japan has certainly a lot of things to appreciate, get overwhelmed with and such a person like me coming from a third world country, this season of my life has been such a good training to learn many things and been hoping to share to others too who want great developments not just to ourselves but also as citizens in our community. An environment that God has entrusted us to be good stewards & to set good examples to those people within our horizon and who knows would reach a contagious effect to our entire nation.

Below is the list of top 12 things why I fall in love with Japan and several reasons to acquire knowledge and inspiration from this country:

  1. Politeness. When we hear about Japan, our first impression might be the quirky Japanese things like the high technology and high-quality brands that exist all over the world. But when you actually live in Japan, it’s not only those things that impress you the most. It’s the daily quality of life and the character of the people that touches your heart. One of them is the Japanese people’s politeness. Like I said in a previous blog, all people here value respect towards others by being polite in their actions and behavior. They do really bow here and there, may it be you’re a friend, colleague, or a stranger.  This is an essential part of Japanese custom to show respect, thanking, greeting or apology. And since I came, I’ve seen how Japanese people say greetings and apologies in a whole higher level. When they say those words, they actually express them with full sincerity and in a heartfelt way. The messages they convey are pretty obvious with what their facial expressions and body language show. Those words are said from the fullness of their hearts and those are admirable manners worth trying to imitate with.
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Copyright: Elizabeth Masamune
  1. Honesty. How would you feel when you could just leave your things in public and be not stolen at all?  What if you just leave your bag on the seats in the restaurants or convenience stores and go to the toilet without losing it when you get back? There was a day during my first few months here when I couldn’t lock my bicycle for some reasons and decided to just leave it and leaned it on the wall in the train station’s bike parking area. Was thinking that someone could steal it if he wanted to because it wasn’t locked. However, I was confident enough that I’m in Japan and it’s safe. So, I left it that way. After I came back, nobody stole it as expected. But to my surprise, somebody fixed by locking it and left it standing already. For most times, I just leave my stuff in the bicycle basket and no one would steal them. In Japan, people don’t take other people’s belongings. So, you don’t have to worry at all!
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At JR Matsuyama bike parking area
  1. Discipline. This is something I wish all people all over the world have. No wonder this country has improved a lot economically and industrially because of people’s strict discipline. Their discipline comes naturally. It’s like their bodies and mindset are systematic to do things at work, in the community and in their personal lives. I see people abiding rules like traffic lights, no throwing of garbage in public and place it in the proper garbage disposal by each category, or bringing garbage at home to avoid littering in public, following the arrow rules in the escalator or stairs, no smoking and vandalism for designated places, and a lot more.  But people in general won’t be disciplined if we don’t start within ourselves. Some people just like to complain about the mess and misbehaviors of others but fail to reflect their own behaviors too. And personal discipline doesn’t happen within a day, it should be done and practice multiple times to make it a habit and sooner become a natural outflow of ourselves.
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Copyright: Leandro Eclipse
  1. Mindfulness of others.  I’ve watched a vlog from a foreigner living in Japan and he said, Japan can be summarized into three words: “Mindfulness of others”. Pretty simple but yeah, he hit the nail on the head! And if you dig to the core reason of why they do what they do is because they care about others. They give way to people everywhere, expressing selflessness at most times. One unforgettable thing I’ve witnessed was when I went to Kyoto. One person left her handkerchief inside the train and a young lady took notice of it. Before the train left for the next station, she quickly went off the train and chased that person to hand in the handkerchief. It was shocking because she missed that trip and had to wait for another 15 minutes for the next train. But this is not something new here. This is already being taught to people since they were kids and my students in kindergarten have mastered caring for each other and being sensitive to their classmates’ needs. Truly, an inspiring good conduct of the Japanese worth copying for!
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Students who are cleaning at kindergarten
  1. Kindness and Helpfulness. It’s the genuine kindness and being helpful to the majority that the Japanese people are also renowned for. Whether you’re a close friend or a stranger, they do help others in times of need. When I got a bicycle accident sometime in December, one Japanese man whom I didn’t know kindly offered his help. He accompanied me all the way to the bicycle repair shop and negotiated the shop’s owner for a discounted price. He settled few things to the driver who was involved in the accident and explained everything to my workplace’s staff over the phone. He could have left and spent his one-hour lunch break for personal leisure time but he didn’t. Their concept of helpfulness and kindness is something that isn’t forced by the society. It’s a sign of hospitality (omotenashiand thoughtfulness that is done out of the goodness of their hearts!

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    Japanese churchmates helping one another for the inflatable floats
  2. Service. Japan has become popular for their incredible world-class service. Over a week ago, my Filipina friends and I were talking about how we’re so amazed with the Japanese service. Most staff of the shops, restaurants, offices are very accommodating and professional. Anything that is also sent to you from an online store, packages, or from the government offices are delivered right away. When one of my friends recently moved to another apartment, their service for transporting things are done with an extreme gentle and care so your things won’t get scratched or damaged. Plus they don’t ask for an extra service fee. Also, people refuse to receive some tips. When I had to renew my visa in the immigration office last month, it took only less than 20 minutes to process everything and I had just to go back after 2 weeks to pay for the fee then that’s it! Such a speedy and efficient service they do always offer!
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Copyright: Japan Times
  1. Diligence and Hard Work. This is something I don’t have to explain further because it’s widely known how Japanese work so hard diligently and with professionalism.  Work is work here and it’s done with loyalty and respect to their bosses and to co-workers. Of course, there are advantages and disadvantages to each job, to any company and to every workplace in different countries I guess. But it’s given, isn’t it? There’s no job that’s easy and they all require hard work and diligence. Stress is inevitable to most jobs in Japan because of the pressure and all, yet it’s so much fulfilling in the end and you get appreciated that much when you do your tasks excellently. And Japan wouldn’t be this so successful as a country if not for those hardworking people who tirelessly do their jobs with strong determination, will and passion.
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Copyright: Bryant Rousseau
  1. Punctuality. Japan is so obsessed with punctuality! Like I said, every second counts here. They are so concerned with time because of this concept in mind that ‘time is money’. And this is something I also admire about Japan because schedules are done right on time. They think that if you arrive on time, you are considered late.  Trains, planes or any other transportation do follow strict rules of time. Recently, there was an incident in Japan when the train left just 20 seconds ahead of schedule and the rail officials handed out some apology notes to the commuters.  Sounds not a big deal for us but for the Japanese people, it is! And they say that the lost time is never found again. That’s why, this is something worthy of training that us foreigners and people from other countries should at least try to be time-disciplined as well.
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People are lining up at the train station
  1. Safety and Peacefulness. Japan is one of the most peaceful and safest countries in the world. You don’t have to worry about being stolen with your belongings or being involved in danger because it’s totally safe. In my case, I do usually bike going home at midnight and nobody would harm you at all. I just love this country’s safety and the very low rates of crime. Another incredible thing is its peacefulness. Maybe if you’re in Tokyo, Osaka or bigger cities in Japan, you can experience both the hustle and bustle of city life and the quiet surroundings at times. But if you’re in a bit countryside city of Japan where I live now, it’s a haven! Everything is accessible to buy or do some stuff because it’s a city and if you’re a person who regains strength from a busy life to a peaceful environment then it’s the nearest perfect place to live. I love the quietness and calmness of the atmosphere brought by the serenity of the beautiful nature and the less noisy people living in this place.
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Night view overlooking Matsuyama City
  1. Cleanliness and Order. A kind of reputation that this country impresses other races of the world is their cleanliness and being organized. There’s this thing they call here like “self-service clean up”. In some restaurants, we have to do the cleaning our own table and space before you leave.  In supermarkets or shops, we have to pack the things we buy on our own instead of the staff which makes them done in speed and order. People don’t rely on public workers to clean the surroundings but instead, people help one another to maintain a clean and green environment. There are no janitors in most companies, schools, offices, etc. In my workplace, there’s no employee who works only to clean but we have different assignments in cleaning everywhere. In public spaces like streets, roads, parks and toilets, they are extremely clean and tidy without trash. Some tourists get shock to see less trash cans when they visit Japan. It’s because people choose to bring their trash at home.
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Shiroyama Park, very clean all the time
  1. Healthy Living. Japanese food is one of the healthiest foods ever! Most food are consumed with a wide variety of vegetables and they are less salty, not oily and for desserts, they are mildly sweet. People love to eat in a small portion with many varieties of food in one meal. Fruits and vegetables are very common to follow a healthy eating diet. They love to eat fresh meat and sea food and of course, drinking green tea is widely practiced. These nutritious eating habit makes people live longer and I’m surprised with the kids I interact at school that many of them don’t like pork or any meat but prefer vegetables and fruits as their favorites. In addition, a lot of the Japanese people love to exercise at the gym or do some walking or running around at the park for health and fitness. Indeed, it’s not surprising that the world’s oldest person recorded is a Japanese!
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Sashimi/ Japanese fresh raw sea food
  1. Keeping the Old Culture. Japanese cultures are significantly unique both the modern and the traditional. It’s distinct in such ways that the high-tech machines are fascinating and some of them can only be found in Japan. Though the modern trends are rising, people still make efforts to preserve their culture that is immersed in the rich history and deep traditions. One thing that makes Japan not a boring place to live is because of the many different kinds of events that people look forward to such as the changing of seasons, holidays, festivals, special celebrations and so on.
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Matsuyama Castle in Spring

With all these, there are plenty of reasons that make this country captivating and have left a long-lasting impression to most of us. A timeless place and commendable people that set exemplary things for us to be in awe, to admire and challenge us to take the step forward in living out their legacy!

 

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