Here is an article of interest that appeared in the Buffalo News.
Americans could use Japanese manners
Barbara Jezioro, a lifelong resident of Buffalo, found some things hadn’t changed in Japan.
This past spring, with frequent flier miles burning a hole in our pocket, my husband and I decided to travel to Japan. For most Westerners, Japan is considered a distant, exotic and, yes, expensive place. So to save money, we decided to go it alone and take our chances using public transport, relying on a good guidebook and doing a fair amount of preparation.
While my husband had never been to Japan, I was lucky enough to have spent a couple of weeks there, some 35 years ago. That was my first vacation ever, and one that I will never forget. The Japanese people were so kind and helpful to me and, best of all, as a young, single woman, I felt very safe.
Here in the United States, there has been a world of change since 1973. My husband and I notice a lack of manners just about everywhere. In fact, sometimes it seems there is an epidemic of incivility. It was with some trepidation, therefore, that I planned this trip to Japan after so many years. I couldn’t help but wonder if we would be disappointed.
Up until this time, the Japanese people were the most polite people I had ever encountered in my travels. I’m happy to say that they still are. Neither of us speaks Japanese, but we learned the Japanese words for good morning, good afternoon, excuse me and most importantly, thank you. If you go to Japan, “arigato gozaimasu” (thank you very much) are the words that you will hear most. The few times we were puzzled with directions, kind strangers, often in the midst of a busy commute, took the time to stop and offer their help; we didn’t have to ask.
One big change in the past 35 years has been the invention of the cell phone. Here in the United States, it’s become usual to see people multitasking with them in their automobiles and to hear cell phones ringing at public events despite the polite entreaties of the management.
In Japan, most people have cell phones, but you rarely hear them. Cell phone use is not permitted on most public transport, because it disturbs the other passengers, and the vast majority of Japan’s millions of commuters respect this rule.
Speaking of public transport, Japan boasts some of the busiest train stations in the world, some with 3 million people passing through during the course of a day and many with underground shopping arcades.
The one thing that is most notable to the foreign tourist, however, is the complete lack of litter. Not only that, but the stations, whether old or new, are really clean and the commuters, whether rich or poor, are all neatly dressed.
On Japan’s highways and congested roads, drivers, for the most part, obey the speed limits. Contrast that with Buffalo, where speeding has become commonplace, even on Delaware Park’s ring road, which is posted at 15 mph, but where cars often do as much as 35, ignoring the danger to children and cyclists.
While most Americans think of Japan as a small island nation, few realize that it is similar in size to the state of California, with almost four times as many people. Perhaps that explains why its citizens are so much more considerate of each other. Any other way of living would result in pure chaos.
In any event, I’m thankful that the real fabric of Japan hasn’t changed. I only wish that even just a little of it would rub off on my own country.