If Obama can do it...

I’ve never stayed longer in Tokyo than five days but each visit allows me to validate my observations about her people and culture. If you ignore the memories of World War II and the Western movies surrounding the myths of the Japanese Yakusa, you can only see a people that appear to live in quiet solitude. This is evidence at the airport as soon as you land. Conversations are often done in quiet altough not-totally muted voices. It’s as if in-built into the Japanese psyche is respect for the persons around you irrespective of whether they are family, friends, acquaintances or strangers. This demeanor is almost alien to many cultures in Asia that see loud (and often irritating) conversations in public places as their God-given right – all the while ignoring this kind of behavior’s impact to those in the periphery.

Let me explain, imagine you are inside an elevator quietly waiting for your stop. In comes two adults and a child who begin a loud, boisterous conversation unmindful of the impact of such loud discussions to others in the confined space.

Another example, a passenger in bus begins a conversation with another person on his (her) mobile phone. This passenger is talking very loud as if the person at the end of the line is having a hard time hearing him (her). All the while people around the passengers are starting to look at the noisy person.

Why can’t people be mindful of the persons around them. In Japan, you will find signs on trains and on buses that ask people not to use their mobile phones. To respect the rights of others. People still communicate using their mobile but most of the conversation is via SMS. If the Japanese people can do it why can’t others.

Sometime ago, a man was talking very loudly on his cell phone while riding a bus. To his surprise someone behind tap him on the shoulder. The noisy man, later dubbed “bus uncle”, was infuriated and demanded that the guy who tapped him on the shoulder to apologize for his action. Who is right in this instance?

What do you think? If this were in the US, would bus uncle be able to do this? In Japan? I will leave you with the observations of another traveler to Japan so you know its just not me.

I’ve always thought that tolerance is a virtue but sometimes I wonder why others don’t seem to care.