Gaijin Stories

These short stories are a collection of my experiences while living in Tokyo. I hope people wishing to learn more about Japan and gaijin in japan wishing to compare experiences will find them interesting. I also hope some Japanese people will find a gaijin's perspective interesting reading as well.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

The Way of Human Relationships (11)

As soon as we can speak, our parents are forcing us to say `Hello` to people who we meet. As we get older, we are taught the importance of initiating conversation. `Did you say Hello to Uncle Keith?` We are taught to respond correctly. `Aunty Mary asked you a question!`
We learn that saying `please` and `thankyou` are the magic words. We learn that communicating well is a necessity for happiness and success in life.

A few days ago, I was on a crowded train and I saw a young boy start to get restless. He'd probably had a long day shopping and needed a sleep. First, he started to slide off the seat onto the floor, then he started to make strange bird noises. I imagined that most Australia mothers, not worried about other people noticing that she was trying to fix the problem`, would use a stern voice to intimidate the child. I watched the Japanese lady bend reach over to the boy and give him a very gentle pull on the arm. The boy sat up for a short while but soon slumped into a new postion. The mother leant over and whispered in the child's ear. Japanese people don't want to have to listen to or be distracted by people they don't know, especially on Tokyo. Being heard or noticed by others would worsen the problem. This time, the boy fixed his posture only a little.
I think that the boy's behaviour would have continued in the same fashion even if he were in Australia, being sternly yelled at by an Australian mother. We often hear that children imitate behaviour more than listen to advice so I guess it explains why Japanese children grow up to be respectful of those around by not being heard, seen or even noticed. I admired the mother's attitude, thinking that as that child becomes a teenager, he will be sensible and respectful of others on crowded trains just like his mother.

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