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National Office:
Foundation for International Cooperation
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Park Ridge, IL 60068

Remembering the gracious Japanese people

by Irene Horst, Editor

Heading for Japan…crossing the big ocean…sitting for 14 hours in a jet plane….thinking about being halfway across the world from our families. These thoughts could be somewhat disconcerting, or instead, as ten daring FICers found them, merely a prelude to a very exciting adventure.

From the time we stepped off the plane onto the land of the Rising Sun, all seeming concerns vanished as the polite hosts, kindly bowing, welcomed us onto their home ground. There is one quality that stands out with all Japanese people. That is graciousness. Oh, that we could all learn the art of quietly accepting and respecting everyone for who he or she is!

If cleanliness is Godliness, the people who have inherited the land of Japan, must be far closer to the Deity than most of us! How neat, how meticulous are their homes, streets, parks, and even their public means of transportation! Can you imagine clean pink upholstery on a CTA car in Chicago?

Cleanliness is further demonstrated in the homes by the habit of shoe removal in the hall inside the door. Indoor slippers are available to family and guests alike. As one steps into the “WC” (water closet which houses the toilet) a different pair is provided at the door. And if you are fortunate to spend the night in a Japanese household, all slippers re removed before entering the sleeping area, which is covered with tatami mats. Wonderfully comfortable futons cover you and quickly send you into the arms of Morpheus.

Japan is geographically a small country, so one might expect to see throngs of people in cities, but each metropolis has accounted for it. Many streets widen out to 6 lanes of traffic flowing through the main areas. These are filled with automobiles. Yet many folk still weave in and out of bike lanes on their bicycles, and all the train lines are filled with passengers. Bird calls remind the pedestrians when to cross the streets. [ed. A favorite of mine was the cuckoo!] Not owning an auto is certainly not a negative to city dwellers. They are accustomed to walking and riding trains. In spite of this busyness, older people are respected and the handicapped well remembered. Each sidewalk is marked with a yellow 2 foot path down the middle, dotted with round protrusions. The latter widen out at each crosswalk curb. How extremely considerate!

Another joy of finding oneself in a Japan is the ability to pour a glass of water from the faucet and drink it! No need to always have bottled eater at your side. Food is most tasty and comes to you in many little covered bowls. The hot soups are always delicious; the white rice is always cooked well, and the variety of meats and fish is abundant. Even the rare desserts are interesting, e.g. purple sauced rice balls. (Black sesame turns purple when mixed with cream.) Using chopsticks is a fine way of dining slowly, instead of inhaling fast foods on the run. It’s no wonder that obesity doesn’t seem to be a problem in the country.

Perhaps the Japanese did not invent technology, but they certainly “own” a large part of it in all areas. Heated toilet seats? Of course, they are in every home. Lights that turn on when the doors open? Just check the closets in the hotel. Doors in cabs that open and close for passengers? It’s almost spooky to see them swing by themselves. Yes, IT is definitely there.
Although typhoons, earthquakes, and tsunamis hover over this land which is half covered with mountains, the people accept all as part of nature that exists. But this does not deter them from living in and enjoying their beautiful country. We thank them for allowing us to share it with them!

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