01 June 2013

Lessons from Japan

It was a lovely trip to Osaka and Kyoto. I think May is a wonderful time of the year to visit this country. The weather was just right.

Of course the kids loved Universal Studio in Osaka, although they said it would have been better if they could understand what was being said during the rides!

But it was more than just fun, and sight seeing. We had a very funny and entertaining tour guide who just so happened to be a Malaysian. He had married a Japanese lady and settled in the Land of the Rising Sun. He's been there 14 years. The envy of the guys in our company for sure!

But our guide said it was not easy adapting to life in Japan, learning a whole new language and way of life. I don't know if what he said about the balance of control between a married Japanese couple is true - but he was just a great story teller!

So the kids learned these lessons about Japan (as did we):

Married life

The husband works and the wife quits her job, usually upon the arrival of children. The husband gives his entire pay packet to his wife and the wife gives him pocket money equal to 10% of his salary!

Due to the small amount of $ the husband has, he takes a home-made bento lunch to work everyday. Or, he could eat an economical meal of Yoshinoya beef rice at only 280 yen. While the stay-home wife goes out shopping with the kids and eats at Italian restaurants. (so says our guide!)

Paper thin walls

You will know that Japanese houses are made from wood and bamboo.

Our guide says there is not much privacy in a Japanese house due to the thinness of the walls. That's why Japanese people speak very softly and gently. His Japanese inlaws thought his parents were quarreling the first time they met, as Chinese people speak rather loudly!


You will not find a more honest people than the Japanese.

Our guide said that the Japanese think of the consequences of what they do. The impact if they took something that is not theirs. The impact on the true owner as well as on themselves.

I personally think it is because of the religion of Buddhism which a large number of Japanese subscribe to. Buddhism emphasizes a lot on kharma, the principle of what goes around comes around. If you do bad, bad things will happen to you. If you do good, well, you can expect rewards. It's quite simple.

My mother-in-law replied that all religions teach this. Reap what you sow, do unto others as you would have them do unto you. But I think not enough emphasis is given to it as today people conduct themselves thoughtlessly.

My son's umbrella tale proves the honesty of the Japanese.

Cleanliness is Godliness

My children were completely impressed by how clean Japan is!

Every toilet experience was a wonderful and relaxing one. Dry, clean toilets with no unpleasant smell whatsoever. Working hand dryers, full rolls of toilet paper. Hand soap and even anti-bacterial hand sanitizers were provided.

Unlike here in Malaysia, where every visit to a public toilet is an anxious, heart pumping encounter - will it be smellier than the last toilet? Will I find faeces on the floor? Did the person who used the toilet before me stand on the toilet seat? Will the toilet floor be covered in half an inch of water? Will I be stepping on urine? It is really quite a shame, the state of toilets in Malaysia.

So, it was a good opportunity to teach my children to use public facilities responsibly and to think of the next person who uses the toilet after them. Again, our guide said that the Japanese think of the comfort of the person who will use the toilet next.

Sales service

Excellent! Polite, smiling, bowing sales attendants.

Your purchases will be wrapped up attractively. And if it is raining at the time of your purchase, the sales personnel will wrap your purchase in an additional layer of plastic to keep it protected and dry.

Our guide said that Japanese companies train their staff well and impress upon them that the customer who walks into the shop is a blessing as the customer is the source of income for them. Regardless of whether the customer buys something or leaves empty handed, the customer is to be served with the utmost courtesy and respect. The customer may return another day to make a purchase.

Unlike some sales personnel who make us feel like they are doing us a favour by selling stuff to us!

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