One of the stereotypes of Japanese people is how honest they are. This stereotype seems to come from the low crime rate. I was walking around with a friend who is visiting from Shanghai, and when we passed by a store that had much of its merchandise outside, he said to me, “Wow, I’m amazed no one steals from it.” I never really noticed instances like that even when I first arrived. I suppose it’s true that in many other places in the world, merchants would have a lot of things stolen if they just leave stuff outside without keeping watch.
There are other instances when I talked with friends about the honor system in Japan. The railway highly relies on the honesty of riders. For example, if you were to buy a ticket and lose it on the way, when you get to your destination, you can explain to the ticket person your situation and where you were coming from. Then, you have to pay the fare again, but who would know if you bought a cheaper ticket and then told the ticket person that you came from the very previous stop? This is a good time to explain that in Japan, the rails work in that riders put their tickets through the stalls and must keep the tickets until they exit. The ticket stalls at the destination would eat up the tickets upon exiting. So here’s another example, in some small towns, the ticket stalls are unmanned after a certain time, which is usually about an hour and a half before the trains stop running. Riders can easily buy a cheaper ticket and easily walk right out at these particular locations.
There seems to be an alarming amount of honesty exhibited by students in Japan compared to America. As one of my friends likes to say, “Japanese students just don’t know how to b.s.” It is especially hard for me to get my students to use their imagination. For example, if I give them directions to make up a place, it is so difficult for them. Instead, if I have them choose some place real, they can just choose any random place and continue with the activity. From the advice of some other AETs, I sometimes present the start of an activity leaving the students to their imagination for the rest. However, it also seems that many of them just don’t want to do any extra work; it’s easier for them just to use things they know instead of trying to formulate something original. So, I feel that it’s both the result of how they don’t usually have any time to hone their creative skills in school (aside from art) as well as their lack of much effort. Throw in the fear of being wrong into the mix and you get a stereotypical Japanese student. I will point out now that not all students are like this. Plus, only one factor might be the cause of a student’s little to no participation.
Although the honor system is very important in Japanese culture, honesty seems to go out the window with regards to communication. In America, there’s the prime example of when a woman asks her boyfriend or husband if she looks fat. It would be an automatic death sentence if the man agreed in the slightest. In Japan, it seems that people cannot offend anyone, which is probably where the stereotype about Japanese people being shy and nice comes from. I have experienced some people using alcohol as an excuse to speak their mind. I really wish people would just speak their minds, but again, this is a very different culture. Lastly, kids, don’t try any of the things I mentioned here. Let’s keep the honor system up!
Stay tuned next week for another update!
今週の聖書の詩: “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat own at the right hand of the throne of God.”
- Hebrews 12:2 (NIV)
今週の写真: I went with a friend to a place called “Meiji-mura,” which is in Aichi prefecture. It’s basically a museum with many relocated buildings that have historical value from all of Japan.
Drum at the dojo