Thursday, December 22, 2011

There is something about Japan - Workoholism

Quite frankly, english dictionary does not have an accurate word to describe Japanese passion for work. Workholism is the closest. May be they should introduce a word Workadict or something which represents the addiction.
Japanese people work all the time. After Fukushima disaster, government appealed to their people to save on electricity. The easiest option would have been to limit office hours and save energy on air-conditioning and lights. They rather opted for switching off lighting in shopping areas, billboards and escalators going down. Office hours and working hours largely unchanged. A Japanese mind would thinking just after a big disaster, one should be working more not less. �
My Japanese colleagues check mails round the clock, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. Their client contacts are no different. Commitments are taken very seriously. If you say a file would reach client at 5:00, the mail needs to leave your inbox by 4:55 if it has a heavy attachment. Otherwise it is considered as a delay.�
The last train from downtown generally leaves closer to midnight. Due to work or work related socializing a significant chunk of people miss it. What is amazing is, instead of making alternate arrangement to go home and creating a possibility of turning up late the next day, they check-in a night stay hotel. This hotel provides common bathroom and a bed with provision to keep a small bag. Those who missed the bus just sleep there rather than going home and resume their working the next day on time. Their family is used to such things and don't think of any alternate solution.�
But the incidence i faced with one my clients takes the cake with cherry on top. We were looking to meet an important manager on client's company on a particular day. We were seeking an appointment. His secretary gave us an appointment at 9:20 pm. We were perplexed and asked for another appointment. She said sure.. How about 10:40 pm? Needless to say we took our appointment at 9:20. The meeting started on time, discussions were excellent, we could not believe we are working well past dinner time.�
On our way back from the meeting we got the mail from the manager profusely thanking us for the visit. Before we went to bed I saw a mail from my Japanese colleague capturing minutes of meeting and confirming next action items.�
I was really speechless. Help me to find a suitable word for this degree of workholism.

Friday, December 16, 2011

There is something about Japan - aging gracefully

Of various countries I have travelled, Japan is very special. There is something different about this country, something very special about how people age here. Looking at ageing people is a paradigm shift in Japan. It is incredible to see so many people who age so gracefully together. Officially, Japan has become the first country in the world whose population has started declining. It is evident as you move around in Japan, the high proportion of old people hits you on your face!�
What you notice almost immediately is the ageing is not sad, pitiful, waiting for the death kind of ageing. The ageing active, graceful by leading a normal life. Men after they retire find a job, get dressed nicely in their formal coats and work. It is very easy to spot a grandma whose age might be hovering around 80 riding a bicycle in shopping area.�
In Japan context 70 is not old. I discovered this the hard way. I was quite impressed and taken in by their politeness. Somehow, i had this urge to match them and feel belonged in this foreign country. I was actively looking around for opportunities to be polite and nice to others. I saw this 70+ kind of a gentleman standing in the train next to where I was sitting. I stood up and offered my seat to him and...boom... He got offended. He not only refused to take the seat but also murmured something which sounded like " young man, buddha hoga tera baap.Arigato gozaimasu" Out of courtsey he did accept the seat. A little while later an old man in 80's appeared on the scene and the 70 year old offered the seat to him. Couple of stops later a woman in 90's appeared and got that seat. It is incredible to watch such old people living and ageing gracefully.

There must be something about this country where peole age so gracefully.

Friday, December 9, 2011

There is something about Japan - Polietness

There is something  about Japan - politeness
Of various countries I have travelled, Japan is very special. There is something different about this country, something very special about the people. They are polite from bottom of their heart, not just for the sake of it but thats the way they want to be. Even when they are speaking on phone, they bow down to show ... Sorry, none can really see it.. To communicate their respect. I got into the airport limousine bus at Narita airport. As the bus was leaving I noticed that the luggage handlers had bowed down and stood in that position till the bus disappeared. Isn't that amazing? 
They follow rules. Everyone does that, what's so different. The difference is how the rules are enforced. I live in Singapore - the fine city. The government uses "fines" which are imposed on almost everything to force people to follow the rules. US uses police presence and empowerment to make people follow the rules. Guess what makes people follow rules in Japan - social pressure. No fines, no penalties, no police just the desire to be seen as civic and accepted by society. You can't speak on cellphone when you are traveling in Japan. Japanese believe it annoys the neighbors. Personally, i find it quite strange, its is OK to speak to one another loudly in Japan but not on phone. But this rule is followed to the limit. You will not find a Japanese speaking on phone ever in a train or a bus. Many foreigners - like me - do it, but they are pardoned out of politeness. 
The best incidence I experienced is the cream with cherry on top. I was standing in my friends home, his neighbor's dog looked at me and started barking. Within 30 seconds, his lady appeared to investigate. She noticed her pet was being impolite by barking on someone needlessly. She bowed down, 45deg, I could hear or understand what she was saying, but an apology from bottom of her heart about irresponsible behavior of her pet was written all over her face. She took the dog away and bowed down again as she was leaving. 
There is something special about Japan, people here want even their pets to behave politely with other!