SGRA Kawaraban (Essay) in English
XIE Zhihai “Slow Living”
I will start this essay with the surprises that I experienced in Japan as a student studying abroad. I lived in Beijing first and then moved to Tokyo. It means that I moved from the capital of China to the capital of Japan. I was surprised at beautifulness of Tokyo. And it is a safe city. Particularly I was surprised with the politeness and quick response of the restaurants. Waiters brought me water immediately when sat at a table and it was always iced water. (It took some time for me to get habituated to take cold iced water as being from China.) When I was ready to place an order, waiter would immediately come to take one before I call him. He takes good care of customers and moves around kitchen and table inside. The response remains the same if I order food of Yen 500 only. I thought within “you don’t need to do so much”. I do not care whether a glass of water is cold or not and do not even care also to be left alone. Is it the only me who comes from China and is surrounded by unfriendly waiters?
As the time passes in Japan, I began to have a feeling that even Japanese feels “hard to live” in such peaceful country where everything is perfect. I was vaguely aware before the pandemic that everybody moved around expressionlessly as if they were chased by something. They could not enjoy peaceful life and were deprived of freedom of moving around the street by the COVID-19 Pandemic. Foreign tourists disappeared and “Mask Police” appeared. They tell each other not to go out without mask or and to citizens who do not cover their noses by mask. It is a shame that people in Japan made their society hard to live by themselves.
I think they can live their life more casually. It will be OK for you, as far as you wear mask and sterilize your hands even if others do not. It would be hygienic enough if you compare with other countries. I remember one of my fellow international students from India told me that he had a feeling that Japan is the most beautiful in the world after returning from academic conference from other counties and his home country. I think Japanese in Japan made their society harder (to live) and hard by themselves.
There is one Japanese who raised the question, why it is so hard to live in Japan? His name is WAKASHIN Yujun. He is the Manager of Company and a Specially Appointed Associate Professor of KEIO University. He pointed out that people in Japan seek “correctness” too much and make themselves harder to live. When people enter restaurant, waiter serve cold water. It is “correct” and common sense in Japan. It is very convincing for me. Now in Japan, everybody wears mask when going out. “Mask Police” came from the reason, why Japanese seek correctness too much. There is no sign to stop seeking for correctness and the society becomes harder to live.
I think it better to change the society which seek “correctness” more.
For example, it is quite common not only in China but in Europe and America that, trains delay sometime. There are no announcements made on how long the trains will delay and passengers do not care. In Japan, however, there is an announcement made on how long the train will delay even if the delay would be for a few minutes only. It will be a kind information for passengers who are waiting. I am used to wait in other countries but in Japan and I have a question why station attendants in Japan try so hard to excuse for the delay. I think the stress of station attendants or companies might be relieved if the number of announcements will decrease. The most important thing for passengers is that they should not care if there would be a few minutes delay. Five minutes will pass quickly if you watch the phone while you wait for the train.
Prof. WAKASHIN is researching the communication between people and organizations and likes to establish “allowable society” in the end. He suggests such society that can allow the mistake of consumers by relaxing standards of their daily life. I agree that we can live our lives in the society more relaxed by allowing others. Such thinking is “effective” in other countries than Japan and it is “necessary” in Japan.
The future of Japanese society will be possible to be bright as far as there would be the people who like to change, and not running away, from the present “hard life”. I do not care to be served lukewarm water or served foods with water at the same time.
SGRA Kawaraban 673 in Japanese (Original)
XIE Zhihai / Associated Professor at Kyoai Gakuen University
Translated by Kazuo Kawamura
English checked by Sabina Koirala