An English view of Japan

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Dec 12, 2010 20:37
An English friend of mine recently visited Japan. He travelled Sendai, Tokyo, Osaka, and Kyoto during three weeks.

Sendai, whose population is one million, is the biggest city in the North-east area of Japan main island. Before his trip, I told him that Sendai is one of the three cities which are well known for the ugliest women in Japan (Other two are Nagoya and Mito). However, he found girls in there were cute and attractive. Well, his English standard might be different from ours!

His favourite city is Tokyo. He was surprised to see extremely clean streets and floors in buildings. Also, he felt that Tokyo is the safest cities in the world.

So, I taught him that Tokyo is by far the most dangerous city in Japan. People from countryside are sometimes scared of Tokyo. One of my Japanese friends from Nara, who was 20 at that time, was so exposed that he left his bag at the corridor when he went to the loo in Tokyo station. When he came back, of course, he found his bag was lost. He said, "There are no bad people in Nara. Tokyo is dangerous!"

The English friend especially wondered how and why people in Tokyo can maintain that safety and cleanness without being controlled by massive police power or something (he saw few policemen on the streets). People could be more rude, more violent, and more litter-scattering, but they are not. Why?

This is quite difficult to answer. However, I think the key concept is again "the air", unwritten codes of practise in people's mind. They share subconsciously the codes of practise. If they don't obey the codes, they would be regarded as those who can't read the air, i.e., 空気が読めない, "Kuuki ga Yomenai" (known as "KY" in abbreviation). They are just supposed to obey unwritten rules of groups which they belong to. For example, you can't throw litter on public places like streets, stations and floors of buses. It's just not supposed. You can call it "discipline", if you like.

Here is a good example. My home town, Kobe, suffered a terrible earthquake in 1995. Many buildings collapsed. Many stores were abandoned. People were suffering from shortage of food, water, and houses. To foreigner's surprise, few thefts happened. Even in that emergent circumstances, people obey shared disciplines. In other words, "the air" at that time did not allow people to do thefts and robberies.

The power of "the air" in Japan is stronger than you can imagine.