12 Most Useful Things To Learn From Japan
Like most, if not all societies, there are many things to dislike or criticize about Japan. However, there are also many things we can learn. I have lived in Japan for about 10 years altogether.
Here are 12 useful things to learn from Japan that quickly come to mind.
1. A polite society
My favourite thing about Japan is the lack of public fighting. In fact, it is extremely rare to hear a Japanese even criticizing another person publicly, let alone pushing or hitting someone. This is not because they do not have feelings–of course they do! It is mainly because they do not want others that might be watching or listening to feel uncomfortable.
Kaizen is the concept of continual, regular improvement. It was actually introduced to Japan in the 1950′s by a Ford Motors executive and has been embraced in a way that America never has.
3. Probiotic / live food
The standard Japanese fridge is not very big and contains foods that would be unfamiliar to most of us in the Western world. The Japanese talk of live foods and dead foods, foods with prebiotic and probiotic qualities. Kimchee (Korean fermented cabbage, but very much a Japanese staple, too), Natto (fermented soya beans which are eaten for breakfast with raw egg and mustard), Tofu, and a variety of delicious pickles are just a few examples.
4. Shopping habits
Most Japanese live in small accommodations, so when they shop they usually just buy what they need for that day. Many houses have just a tiny freezer and very little cupboard space. So if you feel like tucking into some ice cream or biscuits as a midday or midnight snack, they are simply not around to tempt you.
5. Kobans/ volunteers at night
Burglaries, theft, public assaults, and other such crimes are kept to a minimum by a system, whereby police boxes (Koban) housing 2 or 3 policemen or women are strategically placed on corners all around town. You are never far from being able to contact or be seen by the police, and people know exactly where they are. At night, volunteers stroll around neighbourhoods banging sticks together just to let people know there is someone around.
6. Kids walking to school together tied with string
My daughter started walking to school at 6 years old in the very centre of one of the world’s most populated citie. Not by herself, but tied to other kids her age and slightly older from her apartment block and neighbourhood. About 5 kids in each group. This works a treat. Seriously!
The Japanese mastered recycling as a necessity during World War 2. They had no natural resources, and no one was selling them any, so they had to do with what they had. Now they have a different rubbish day for every one of six days; a glass day, a food scraps day, a cardboard day, a plastics day, a metal day, and a paper day. This is strictly adhered to for the general good.
8. Temples – Peace
Even in the busiest Tokyo street or in the middle of a rural backwater, there are endless shrines and temples which are oases of peace and tranquility. Of course some stunning buildings and gardens, but many more humble. They are almost everywhere, and these places bring a balance to the community and society in general.
9. Free health check-ups
In the area I lived in I would get a letter every January with a time and date for my free medical check-up. This entailed about 2 hours of comprehensive testing to make sure I was still in great shape; heart, eyes, fat/body ratio, dental, blood test, reactions, the works. Love this, because it keeps the whole community pretty much healthy.
10. Kids alcohol vending machines
Like temples and shrines, another thing you cannot go far at all in Japan without seeing is a vending machine selling you alcohol. So any kid, at any time of day, can buy alcohol. Whiskey even. Extremely cheap, as there seems to be no taxes or customs duties on anything but beer, so there is no teenage binge drinking like in nearly all Western societies. Maybe all the Japanese kids tried it at 11 years old, got terribly sick, and decided that it was not for them!
11. Embracing technology
Smallest, fastest, funkiest design, lightest, uniquely coloured or contoured. If it can be made the Japanese want it first.
12. Trains regular and on time. Clean, safe, polite. Can rely on them
If you want to get somewhere on time, get a train. If they say they will arrive or leave at, say, 10:31am, they will. So having a car is an unnecessary luxury in most parts of the country. The trains are super smooth and I guess because so many people use them, very reasonably priced, clean, constantly updated, air conditioned or heated and a generally great experience. This gives you so much more time in your day, as you can leave home at say 10.25 am, get that 10.31 am train, get some work done online for 15 minutes, reach the other side of town, get a quick burst of 5-10 minutes walking exercise, and be at your meeting point by 11 am. And know that you will be able to do that 99% of the time. So no leaving too early, no stress and cheap. Awesome!
As you can see, I love Japan! Of course, I could write 12 more things I love about it, and I will in the future.
Featured image courtesy of Marc Veraart, dreamingyakker via Creative Commons.