Japan: An art of perfection: a culture of shame…?

Useful signs? 😉

You go to Japan and it’s a la-exotica. With the sheer name of it, the feel of it, and the diversity of experience, because even though there is so much Japan that’s around you- it’s only in terms of hard(ware) products. Very few people can relate to Japanese culture or people per se. Of course the fact that the language has been a barrier is known. But for me it’s more the script, cos even the French don’t speak English. But you can try reading the directions in Latin. And then as people we’re exposed (much more) to the West. It’s a pity that. Because there’s so much one can experience, if not relate to.

Different serving- Food vending machine

I don’t know if it’s surprising, but a lot of Japanese folk wanted to know, how Japan is perceived in India. I’d say, we think Japan is ‘high quality’ and that ofcourse made them happy. Japan does pride itself on its quality. At a Japanese restaurant, I consistently felt over-served. Not just the quality of food** (though it’s an acquired taste) but the way the staff conducts itself. Aki-san told me that’s cos Japan has a ‘culture of shame’- the peasants would make sure they had the best quality of paddy, and it’s inbuilt in them to deliver the highest quality and the best service. For me it’s was interesting on several counts. While on one way it’s great (for everyone)- Japan has one of the friendliest and most helpful  people I’ve met. When they can’t tell you directions in English- they walk you to the bus stand, and bow, go Hai  at the smallest opportunity. But imagine how you raise babies (btw, Japanese babies are by far the CUTEST I’ve seen)- do you tell them they can’t afford to make mistakes? It’s unnerving in one way. Everyone follows rules. No talking on mobiles in public transport, standing behind lines, all that- which one doesn’t even expect in India. We’re everything but proper, and I think while we can improve, there is a charm in what we are too. I am a prototype P (on MBTI)- planning, regimented settings don’t come naturally to me. So while it makes life easy, I am not sure, I could follow all of the rules, all of the time too. I think it also restricts creativity.

Lacy umbrellas

Talking of creativity, Japanese people ‘express’ themselves through comics (Manga), games, and huge interest in girl bands (AKB48 feels like Britney Spears was born all over again :D). Fashion is expressive too. Boys have hair which is, well (sometimes) strange and quirky. Oh and, there’s Louis Vuitton in the train stations – makes them high end no? *Btw, the girls were all over in lace, crochet- even umbrellas had them*. However, having spoken of all the expression, the language actually is indirect. I remember asking this one guy ‘if he’d like to make a movie someday’- not randomly he was an actor a while ago- and he reacted by saying ‘whoa that was so direct’. I don’t think I’ve ever tried to tone down directness, infact I prefer direct. It felt so not-me :).

Narita-san Buddhist temple, Kawagoe

History was another aspect. History in anyplace is less impressive, if you’ve grown up on 5000 years behind you. And true to their ‘quality’ aspect, the Japanese folk have ‘maintained’ old things, they also showcase it. In India we take it for granted. Not as an excuse, but we do also have a lot of it. I remember someone in Rome, being totally unimpressed and saying – ‘ there are ruins everywhere in Rome’. That’s close to what I feel in India. I went to Kawagoe to see the ‘Little Edo’ (old name for Tokyo) and compare it with the Tokyo I saw over the course of the week. And for a vacation, ofcourse Kawagoe held more interest, with its quiet and cosiness. Tokyo is this metropolis where people don’t talk in the trains- perhaps not even just cos it’s a rule but also cos perhaps that’s what big cities do to you.

And finally, should one visit Japan- yes, very yes. It’s as far east and away from home as one may feel. And that’s one-why it holds your interest, even if you were lost in translations, oh and not just for the sake of it. 🙂

** Octopus salad, live Octopus, raw fish- all healthy though. Very few fat Japanese folk around.

11 comments
  1. Rohini’s comment was goosebump-ifying! I come back to this post of yours to see what others have written of Japan 😀
    I see now you’re in Seoul – care to forward my resume at workplace – one or the other way, i’ll fir some job role I swear. And I’m serious.

  2. i went there for work…n agree with most parts but for me, i hv no urge to be so rule focussed cos i think it mars individuality, i like being indian n not necessarily proper 🙂 & abt tech in lifestyle i thought while it was cool, it wasn’t quite eco friendly…true of the developed world as a whole not just japan…but all said n done it’s a great experience…

  3. Arigato-gozaimaas!
    Japan! The first country that I visited outside India . Japan diluted the whole experience of going to US of America a year later. Japan is such a great country. Perfect amalgamation of culture and technology, I think.
    The way the technology is adopted in their daily life is amazing. Imagine one vending machine serving you a super hot can of Darjeeling tea right after a chilled can of Pepsi :P. Never saw it outside Japan.
    I was amazed by the love and attention the Japanese people bestow on you, visitors are actually treated with love and special care.
    Nothing has ever impacted my mind the way my visit to Japan did. Each day in Japan has inspired me to be a better person, a better citizen, a better torch bearer of the rich culture I have inherited and to imbibe technology to leverage it for a better, cleaner life.
    And for veggies: Dont be afraid. I lived there for 6 weeks, eating awesome veg food ( there are some awesome Indian restaturants too). You just need to learn the sign language for ‘no meat’, they go out of the way to cook the most delicious veg food of your choice. And its a heaven for shopping: Tokyo, Akiabara etc. Frankly Ginza holds a permanent place in my heart compared to the over-rated Times Square (I love NYC tough).
    The country reminds me of Pheonix. Rising from the humiliating defeat of WW2, to create a place so mystic, beautiful and technologically so super advanced inspite of so many natural and political obstacles.
    The only thing I found a bit weird was that they are sleep deprived, almost everytime in any public transport you see ppl waiting in line, walking in a line to enter the compartment and then sitting all while their eyes are closed.

    Sorry Uups for the long comment. But kya karen, I heart Japan! And yes, I second you about the Japanese kids.
    Btw, was it work or pleasure that took you to Japan?

  4. @ Prasoon- Oh I think it’s a very very convenient place…but I think one needs much more than convenience

    @ Tanvi- 🙂 I actually felt so too…but they’re good helpful people too…and you must definitely visit!

  5. Loved your version of Japan! Have heard stories from many people who have visited. It is definitely on my list! Interesting to hear about their ‘rules’ and ‘discipline’ and need to know how they are perceived makes them more human than I had expected. [I thought of them as robots! 😛 haha]

  6. Having lived there for 2 months and then seeing the USA, I think if there is one place livable, it’s Tokyo! I’d rather love staying there for a really long time – it’s very peaceful, disciplined and lovely.
    You’re back home too soon I’d say.

  7. @ BA- It is awesome, definitely worth a visit

    @ Prasoon- Oh it’s a pity you should go there. I don’t know if it feels better but I actually don’t think I could live there forever. I am happily back home, after a rather happy week there 🙂

  8. Upasna – try making me NOT miss Japan and please don’t make me nostalgic or even curse myself for not going there when I had a second chance 🙁
    How long are you there? And my recommendations – how far are you on that? 🙂

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