Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Japanese Manners

By Mark W. Danielson


Manners seem to be a thing of the past. It would appear that the crazier our world gets, the less we “mind our manners.” Thankfully, there is a place where politeness is still emphasized, and that’s in the Land of the Rising Sun. Yes, Japan has been passing on its good manners from generation to generation, and while a few bad apples may slip through the cracks, as a whole, you won’t find a more courteous group of people.

Everything about the Japanese is tidy and polite. Their taxi drivers, who polish their cars when they’re not in service, dress in suits, wear white gloves, place white protectors on their seats, greet you, and politely deliver you to your hotel. Your hotel staff politely greets you in colorful, polite uniforms, provide a polite check-in, and en route to your room, frequently receive a polite greeting from one of the housekeeping staff. When entering a Japanese restaurant, you are treated as a guest by a polite waiter who serves you your polite meal. School kids dressed in nicely pressed uniforms smile and carry on polite conversations as they walk the streets. Police officers politely wave at traffic to ensure order. Traffic blends without blaring horns because their drivers are polite. In fact, they are so polite, they stop for pedestrians. Even Japan’s rice fields create a sense of order. So while other countries may also be polite, Japan sets the bar when it comes to manners.

Why is that? Because in this island country, nearly every resident is Japanese, and it’s much easier to be polite when you don’t have contrasting cultures and ethnic groups. But Japan’s politeness also stems from their national pride, and while they got a bit carried away with it sixty seven years ago, they managed to rebuild their country, turning it into a global economic power, and still dominate the world with new inventions. That’s the kind of national pride I’m referring to. Needless to say, Japan has come a long way since exporting cheap plastic products.

My point is that we can all learn something from the Japanese. We can take ourselves a little less seriously. We can replace the garbage our television stations are broadcasting with silly Japanese-style game shows where laughing at ourselves is entertaining. We can be grateful for what we have rather than always expecting more. We can give more love to our family and friends. And finally, we can smile and laugh a lot more. After all, smiles are acceptably contagious.

3 comments:

Beth Terrell said...

Every time I read one of your posts, Mark, I feel like I've travelled around the world.

My favorite Japanese show is NINJA WARRIOR. Talk about inspirational!

Jean Henry Mead said...

Thank you, Mark, for a great post. I couldn't agree with you more about politeness and manners, which are rapidly becoming obsolete in this country.

Mark W. Danielson said...

As I said, other countries are polite, too, and to prove that, God sent me a very polite "smily face" over Taipei by aligning Jupiter, Venus, and a crescent moon. This rare illusion quickly disappeared over the horizon before I took off for Anchorage, but it was a sight I'll remember for many years.