It was on a Saturday afternoon, in the month of September in 2019, when for the first time after my arrival here, we planned for an outdoor to just have a walk around in the Nagoya city streets. The weather was mild, warm and sunny and I can still recall the autumn freshness in the air. Much like any other city in the developed world, life in Nagoya is also fast-paced. People can be seen hurrying across somewhat crowded streets. Amidst these busy streets, I was overwhelmed at the sight of the elderly people roaming around so effortlessly.Some aged men and women were seen riding bicycles while some were seen shopping alone with just the support of the walkers.Being the weekend for many, the streets were too busy. So, it was the first time that day, I was to commute by a train in Japan. Being naïve with the rules and language, I was just silently following my husband right from getting tickets from the ticket counters to making a check-in to the train platforms. Yes, everything was in Japanese. The announcements, the updates on train scheduling, the labelling of the ticket counters, the station notice boards all were communicated in Japanese. I know, it was so scary, not a single line in English but also equally interesting for a foreigner like me. And lost in quest of many answers, imagining myself how it would be to travel in the trains all alone, I was finally happy when I saw a few English words accompanied by some Japanese letters , like the station name on the display board, the station’s name printed on the ticket and the train category (whether Express, limited, local train etc). Fortunately, I could also read the scheduled timings on the display board as luckily numbers are not written in Japanese language.
Photo taken at Meitetsu- Nagoya station by AHM
So, after collecting the tickets, still following my husband, we took to the escalator. Same way as in India, the escalators and stairs are connected to the respective platforms of every station. As I was about to take the escalator, my husband said to me ‘Either stand behind me, just right after me or stand in front of me to your left and I’ll be standing at your back’.
I wasn’t much surprised when he asked me to do so, for, I saw the rest of the people maintaining the same positions. But the big question mark on my face made him explain the reason behind his request. He told me that in Japan, while taking escalators, it is a kind of gentle gesture to keep the other side free, so that people who has an emergency or in a hurry can use the escalators in the form of stairs. This helps in maintaining discipline and avoiding any hustle-bustle or disturbance to the rest of the people. Yes, it was just remarkable to see that even at the peak hours, no matter how hurriedly a person has to rush for his work, this kind of outstanding act of discipline was maintained and was not taken casually. Right after getting off the escalator I was taken aback at another rare sight that hardly can be imagined in our country and in most of the other places abroad. The people waiting in long queues maintaining minimum distance in order to board the train. It was around 3 pm and the train was scheduled at 3:11 pm. And at dot 3:10 pm the train arrived. The people who were to get off the train got off first and very patiently the people who were to board the train waited outside. It is really amazing and this unique experience is just one among many such instances that I came across in this beautiful land after landing here.
Photo taken at JR Tower, Nagoya by AHM
Later, as time passed, such experiences just gave me an insight that wherever you go or whatever you do in any public place, maintaining queues and an overall disciplinarian attitude is one of the most important cultures or way of life of the Japanese people. Hence, straight from my heart from the Land of the Rising Sun, I am just overwhelmed to share my experience about such mindfulness that the Japanese people have maintained for ages. ‘Without Discipline there's no life,’ is what exactly one may feel in this country if he or she decides to have a fulfilling life in this wonderful place. Say, whether you are going to a shop for shopping, or window shopping, or you are walking on the streets, waiting for the green traffic signals or you are taking an escalator, or while using a lift, it is the same disciplined behavior that you need to maintain if you want to be part of their society and wish to assimilate into their culture. No matter if it is the busiest hour or not, no place in Japan ever see any chaotic wail or push while boarding a train or in any such public place. However, at times Tokyo being an ever-busy destination, trains are usually seen to be overflowingly packed yet people try to maintain such mindfulness etiquette's.
It is said that the concept of discipline in Japan is based on three criteria- order, cleanliness and punctuality which is true and noteworthy. Yes, the entire Japanese culture revolves around these three keys so that today, Japan stands out in matters of cleanliness, punctuality and warm hospitality. Therefore, whether it’s a short visit or long stay, keeping the basic rules and regulations in mind would give maximum satisfaction to any visitor who wish to experience Japan in reality. This wonderful lesson in mindfulness is something which every country must imbibe for peaceful and joyous existence among citizens of the world. Learning and adapting to such practices would definitely reflect upon our good habits and inculcating such mindfulness among our fellow citizens especially in these trying times and days ahead will surely lead us to a mindful existence.
[ Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in the column are those of the author and do not necessarily
reflect the opinions of the Publisher. ]