P: Thoughts on Japan: Uniformity




There’s an efficiency and utility to life in Japan that I love.  Trains run on time, streets are clean and people follow predictable behaviors.  There is a decided security to this.

Irony!  I was writing the last sentence about predictable life here,  an earthquake started shaking the building.  Emma, Max and I all got up and stood in our hotel room doorway.  The pendant lights in the hallway were swinging back and forth.   I watched as a team of chambermaids scurried out the door to their safe location.

For me this is a surprising event, but for many in Japan it’s part of ordinary life.   When we visit schools in Japan, there are rows of emergency backpacks and crash helmets for every student.  Earthquake drills are regular part of life here.  The preparedness is just part of the way people of Japan deal with living here.  Crisis here, it is presumed to only occur from lack of planning.

This seeming automation of life, influencing  people’s behavior in given situations, is cultural. People understand what’s expected of them and they behave according to their role.  I’ve observed that these norms play out in stereotypes like “Boss,” “Ingenue,” “Student,”  and “Wife.”  Last July when we were in Matsumoto, I presented to a women’s organization about raising kids with EQ.  The group of women attending the program were first time mothers enrolled in a program to help them to adjust to their new role.  For many women in Japan, becoming a wife is considered a “happy retirement” from a career or kotobuki taisha.   But what happens to a woman who is reluctantly “retired?”  Maybe being at home with a baby is not the ultimate experience for everyone.

When we travel I am always struck by our distinctly  American-stlye chaos and individuality.  While much of the “loud American” stereotype I abhor,  I do like to see Emma and Max’s non-conformity and unique path through life.  Even seeing Max wearing orange in a crowded street full of people in black and white makes me smile.  Perhaps that’s one of the things I love best about being here, simultaneously appreciating what’s best about both Japanese and American cultures.


8 thoughts on “P: Thoughts on Japan: Uniformity

  1. I’m so excited to be part of your travels again. I so enjoy your writings Patty and look forward to more but no pressure😀 Its such a coincidence that as I read your writings Joe and I are driving through Arkansas and rice fields! Who would imagine. Enjoy every moment of your adventure.

    • Thanks R & J!
      I bet there’s quite a culture clash when you visit Arkansas! How American is it in the Heartland? I confess I’ve never been.

    • Thx MJ, I’ll keep you posted on any earthquake news, apparently, I was the only one in this city who seemed bothered by it! LOL

  2. Glad the earthquake was nothing more that a mile shake and you, even non structured Americans knew what to do. Great blending of cultures.

    The china pictured, so precisely stacked in order is so perfect!

    Love you

    • what I love about this photo is the white utilitarian nature of the dishes. they are totally functional, not at all decorative, and yet beautiful to me.

  3. It must be wonderful revisting a culture/place you have gotten to know and understand…and now with Emma able to handle a lot of hte language!! Amazing

    • I’ll be posting later about being with Emma now that she has some language. its a riot what she hears, reads and appreciates– but I am totally blind to it. She’s got her language antenna up.

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