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Each country has its own unique identity, unique lifestyle as well as unique culture. If we talk about Japan, what strikes me the most is the cleanliness, punctuality and deep love towards Samurai era. The Japanese recognize Samurai era as Edo period. Just as in our country in Saurashtra, there was an era of banditry and bandits; there was a full era of Samurai warriors and their leader Shogun in Japan. Japan respects that era even today. I present my experiences on the above three during my Japan visit.
Whether it is Tokyo or Kyoto, one thing I saw common everywhere was that each one always carried a paper bag. In Tokyo, almost all, both the men and women are working, so they leave home since morning. Each one will always have a paper bag in which the person will collect their dry and wet garbage through the day. If the bag gets full, then there are garbage bins in public places where these bags can be disposed. In Japan, no person is ever seen throwing garbage in a public place, or on road or on footpath. No person is ever seen spitting in public. If the paper bag gets full, the Japanese immediately take another paper bag. In case anyone throws garbage in public place, the Japanese are very sure that this person is certainly not Japanese!
This resoluteness of the Japanese towards cleanliness can be said to be a bright trait of their culture and this surely increases our respect towards them. In India too, the cleanliness mission has started since last few years. This mission is extremely necessary for our country as no one can beat our (Indians) capacity in terms of our habit of spreading filth and garbage! Any Government can provide guidelines or a framework for cleanliness but ultimately it is the people who have to cultivate the habit of cleanliness. This determination for cleanliness is one quality that India needs to learn from Japan. When will we improve in terms of cleanliness?
The other important aspect of the Japanese which impressed me immensely is their observance of punctuality. It has been my experience in Japan that if one is delayed by 30 seconds beyond the appointed time, my interpreter Mr. Uiko Otsuka would immediately call to check if I am well. In Japan, it is a rule to reach 10 minutes before the appointed time.
Politeness and courtesy are not just the virtues for show-off in Japan, but it is something which is a part of their living. What I saw when I met Mr. Hiroyuki Minezawa, the Chief Officer, Tokyo Main Railway Station, was something completely new to me! Mr. Hiroyuki opened the door of the main building and about seven of us went through but soon about 20 more people followed us into the door and Mr. Hiroyuki held the door open for all of them. So I asked my interpreter that why did Mr. Hiroyuki hold the door open for all the people who followed us? My interpreter replied that in Japan the person, who opens the door for entering or exiting, holds the door until all people have passed through the door. This is a part of our culture. I also came to know that most of the multi-storey buildings in Japan do not have a liftman to operate the lift. Here again, the first person who enters the lift takes the responsibility of the liftman.
Now I would like to talk about the Golden era of Japan – known as the Edo period. Edo is the old name for Tokyo. This Edo period means the Samurai era and especially the Golden era of Japan under the Tokugawa Dynasty. The time during 1603 to 1869 is known as the Edo or the Tokugawa period. Around this time, Japan made very good economic progress. The social system was restructured, foreign policies focussed on having no more wars and in the cultural space, Japan was at its peak. Japan, even today loves and respects this Edo period. When discussing Tokugawa Dynasty, the Japanese feel very proud. It is being said that all the virtues like the politeness, discipline, punctuality, honesty, respect and pride for their culture that one sees in the Japanese people is the influence of Edo period.
Next week we will read about the Samurai Museum and the Samurai culture which is still alive today in Japan…