Saturday, February 07, 2009

Window to Japanese Culture

(By a fellow missionary)

Time. Different cultures view time drastically different. In some African cultures being 1 hour late is still considered on time. Meeting times are merely suggestions. There are days when the bus may come, but then again it may not. Why not wait at the bus stop and see? Japan is on the other end of the spectrum. Perhaps the most time conscience culture in the world, the Japanese will text message a friend when running one minute late to let them know, then upon arrival, a customary apology I'm sorry to keep you waiting" will necessarily follow. Even when you are on time, if you are the last person to arrive for a group gathering, the same greeting will follow, 'Omataseshimashita.", "I made you wait. (sorry)"

This focus on time has produced a very efficient workplace, but it has also made Japanese (and we non-Japanese living here) somewhat over concerned about time sometimes. To be be viewed well by others, we must constantly be "busy" in order to be seen as responsible or "good". It need not matter what we are busy with, just that we are busy. A life of reflection and depth is almost impossible. No time to think about life, there is too much pressure to keep moving. How many times have I heard the comment after a new comer visits our friday night discussion, "I've never been in a group that valued really thinking deeply and talking together like this."

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