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A Silent Lesson From The Japanese


As a visitor in Japan, I learned most of the hidden protocols of Japanese traditional society in their public transportation system. Coming from a loud Latin American culture, my friends and I found the silence of the trains to be highly intimidating, as well as the Japanese sense of cleanliness, strong-held values, and respect to authority. As the trip transgressed however, these virtues subsequently became the things I valued the most about Japanese culture, as I discovered how much there is to learn from them.

A silent, impeccably clean train station in Japan

One interesting experience that highlighted the Japanese decency happened to a friend and myself when we were on our way from Tokyo to Kyoto. We unintentionally left both our bags on the train and noticed this mishap as we saw it pull away from the station. Coming from Latin America, where getting something back is clearly out of the question, we both stared at each other in awe, as we tried to decipher what our next step should be. Subsequently, we concluded we needed to go to one of the Information Centers around the station. We assumed an employee would speak English, an assumption we immediately realized was wrong as we approached the reception desk. As we started trying to communicate in signs, a random subway patron saw this scenario and decided to come help translate. As the man understood, he immediately made a call to his colleague in the Shin-Osaka station, the train’s last stop, where we were able to track down our left-behind bags and get them back the very next day.

This is just one of many examples of how the Japanese people often proved willing to go out of their way to give us a hand in times of need. In a world in which we are constantly hearing about how rotten humanity can often behave, it was a comforting feeling to see a society which stayed true to its values, to such an extent that they would stop whatever they were doing to help a stranger out. As I left the island, I realized that Japan had left in me a sense of hope I had yet to discover. If the Japanese society can behave so altruistically after all the atrocities throughout history, then there is honestly no reason why the rest of the world could not manage to stay true to its moral compass as well. Hopefully then, as we become ever more globalized, we will learn a little bit more from the Japanese, and eventually, the world will become a better place.

  • Culture
  • History

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