interesting the way a woman becomes more enticing when much of her remains
mysterious than when her identity is revealed completely”, this is how
Chuck started his letter to me the other day.
He continues to praise Japanese women and shares a secret with me
– American men seem to like us a lot.
He tells me that many westerners are interested in Japan and
Japanese culture, but it's often difficult to really get a grasp on what
adds, “Often we hear many negative things about Japan in magazines and
newspapers, and I realize that those comments may be caused by a lack of
understanding. What I wanted
to ask you is this: What are your favorite aspects of Japanese culture
that are not the same in America and other western countries?
Or what positive aspects of
there that most westerners are not aware of? I suppose those are very broad, big questions, but I hope
you'll answer them.” He
continues, “It's rare that I read anything that talks about all the
wonderful aspects of Japan and Japanese culture, and I think that's a
parts of Japanese culture
are actually several of them and I will talk briefly about each of them.
I would not claim that none of these exist in one form or the other
in any other part of the world or we do it better than others – but
these are my favorites.
are very committed to our work and consider our jobs as a
Whether we like a job or not, we always do our very best.
Additionally, no job is too mean for us.
Even after going to good universities and earning prestigious
diplomas, we all start at the bottom of the ladder and sometimes do things
that do not fully use what we are capable of or are just too mundane.
However, the attitude that most Japanese have is that they need to
do this in order to fully appreciate all aspects of business.
For instance, if you join a retailer, your very first job for
months or years could be stocking the shelves and helping customers find
products that they are looking for. While this may sound like a job that does not require any
intelligence at all and can be boring at times for university graduates,
most people who do this for a period of time find out that they have
learned a lot more about retailing in the store aisles than they would in
a conference room or by just making phone calls from their offices to
us the family is everything. Living
in a joint family is a way of life for us and we have a simple system in
place. The elder members help
out with the raising of the kids and younger people can rely on the elders
for guidance and support. At
the same time, the younger people have a lot of freedom so that they do
not think that they are being watched very closely just because they live
with their parents and grandparents.
Since Japan is such a safe country, most kids can stay late out of
the house but at the end of the day we can all get together as a family
and enjoy a meal or just sit down on the tatami floor under a kotatsu
and chat about our day. Even if we do not live with our elders, we still visit them
more often and make sure that they still feel part of our extended family
Japan is often accused of not being a perfectly capitalist country, we
like it this way since we are still focused on people rather than wealth.
We have universal healthcare so that we can make sure that we are a
healthy nation and regardless of our social status we can always feel
comfortable that when we get sick someone will take care of us.
I have never been a big favorite of lifetime employment and I am
glad that it is declining but I like the fact that Japanese companies
think of layoffs and downsizing as strategic decisions rather than as a
short-term solution to meet analyst expectations. Thus, layoffs have
started to happen recently but they are done in a very 'humane'
manner. For us, people are everything, we care for their feelings,
and are concerned about their well-being.
literacy level approaches almost 100%.
Going to school or dropping out is not a matter of choice for
Japanese kids. We provide as
much funds as needed for schools on a national level and regardless of the
financial status of a family, all children go to the same school.
The education level is fairly standardized and we push our kids
hard. While it may sound
regimental, it can actually be a lot of fun.
After graduating from high school, we all feel very proud to have
such good quality education and Japanese students consistently perform
extremely well in international exams.
rules in Japanese schools)
is an integral part of our lives. While
we have turned into voracious consumers over the years, we are still very
close to Nature. Even in our
tightly packed apartments, we raise plants.
In the most crowded neighborhoods of Japan, you will find trees and
small parks hidden behind houses. Our
fascination with electronic gadgets or fake objects is our way of not
destroying Nature. We eagerly wait for seasons and watching the cherry blossoms
is not just about admiring beautiful flowers – it is a spiritual
experience for Japanese people. Life
in the countryside revolves around Nature and those who live in large
cities rush to their native villages on one excuse or the other to connect
have recognized the importance of privacy in our personal lives.
While most Japanese are not
religious, even for those
religious, religion is a private matter.
It does not define our culture today and those politicians who try
to do this are considered to be on the fringe rather than mainstream.
These continue to be private matter for us and our politicians will
typically leave us alone in such matters.
I really like the fact that the most private decisions can be taken
by an individual and confidentiality is assured at all times.
If I wish, I could stay in any hotel, visit any entertainment
establishment, buy anything I like, and practically do almost anything
legal, without someone even asking me for an ID.
In a crowded country like ours, privacy means a lot to us and we
have developed systems that allow us to do that – we can carry any
amount of cash with us without fear of being robbed, pay with cash for
almost anything (including cars and houses), and feel comfortable that
people around us will be discreet at all times rather than get on TV to
talk about anything they ever saw in their lives.
I do not want to sound cocky, but I think that Japan is a great nation.
I also think that a lot of foreigners who are genuine
lovers of Japan recognize this and continue to indulge their Japanese
passions. Japan has its imperfections and I
am glad that the rest of the world talks about them.
Otherwise, we would not change and get better if no one criticized
us. Several Japanese people
do not like being criticized but I am very glad that the international
media is bringing these issues out anyway.
It is human nature to blow out of proportion what is scandalous and
take for granted what is working well.
I am glad that Chuck made me think about all this and hopefully
people will benefit from my perspective.
want to reemphasize that I have not tried to belittle other countries or
to claim in any way that we do it better – I have simply shared my views
on what I like. There are
wonderful things in every culture and I admire a lot of these things
myself. I sincerely hope that
from this story non-Japanese people will learn to look at Japan in a more
balanced manner while the Japanese people will find ways to improve
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