15 Things the Japanese Can Teach Us About Living a Balanced Life


Balanced Life

The Japanese fans made headlines in July 2018 when they stayed to clean up the stadium during the World Cup. Heartbroken after their team lost to Belgium, they tried to cope with their disappointment by collecting rubbish at the Rostov Arena where the game was held. It was not the first time the Japanese fans had cleaned up stadiums after games. They always show the rest of the world how important it is for everyone to keep their community clean. This is not the only lesson the Japanese can teach us and we have much more to learn from this amazing culture.

Here at Apegeo, we have carefully studied 15 principles that the Japanese follow and the way these principles influence their lives.

1. Follow the rules.

The Japanese observe order in everything. You will not see people pushing or bumping at each other in stores, on transport, or in other public places. Even if the train station is packed with hundreds of people you will see no chaos — people will line up and wait for the train while respecting each other’s personal space.

2. Keep the planet clean.

Japan has one of the world’s most elaborated garbage disposal systems. It all starts with sorting the garbage at home, and it is not as simple as it seems. The garbage-sorting guide of Nihama city, for instance, has 42 pages that describe, in detail, how this or that type of waste should be treated. In the picture: Japanese football fans clean up the stadium after the game.

It is also a common practice for the Japanese when friends, schoolmates, or co-workers gather to spend a few hours to collect trash in the neighborhood.

3. Seek order and harmony in everything.

The Japanese concept of Wa (literally meaning “harmony”) refers to seeking harmony everywherefrom interpersonal communication to the arrangement of items. The art of ikebana and traditional Japanese poetry, tanka and hokku, for example, are based on principles of harmony in flower arrangement and rhythm. The Japanese believe that harmony in objects and space organization brings harmony into a person’s mind and soul. In the picture, women are thoroughly checking the cups alignment.

4. Take responsibility.

The Japanese can probably set the best example of being highly responsible in the workplace. In order to increase the safety of the passengers and personnel, Japan Railways introduced the so-called “pointing-and-calling” system, also known as Shisa Kanko. This system is based on associating every task with physical movement and vocalization in order to prevent errors.

Sometimes we do things automatically and Shisa Kanko raises our awareness by making us do things consciously by pointing at objects and saying out loud what we are doing. You can use this efficient system in everyday life. If you tend to forget whether or not you’ve turned off the iron before you leave the house, simply look at the iron, point at it, and say out loud “I turned the iron off.” In this case, you will be sure you did everything correctly for the rest of the day.

5. Have fun like no one’s watching!

In Japan, having good fun is just as important as working hard. And really, who can be bored in a country where karaoke and Cosplay were born? Karaoke, in particular, is one of the most popular ways to shake off stress after a long day at work. In the picture, you can see young people take part in Sailor Moon Cosplay.

6. Be polite.

The Japanese culture is based on politeness and there are countless ways to be polite from table manners and gestures to using certain words when addressing certain people. The concept of politeness itself (teinei in Japanese) is very popular and it is often associated with respect, which implies putting oneself down and putting others first, especially when around elderly people, teachers, bosses, guests, or clients. In the picture, you can see how attendants welcome the first customers in a store.

7. Turn little pleasures into a festival.

Almost everything you do in Japan turns into a little ritual. Would you like a cup of green tea? You will get it accompanied by traditional sweets called wagasi. They come in many shapes and styles but they are all made so finely and meticulously that each of them looks like a work of art.

Some of the Wagasi types are popular all year round while others are seasonal. Their basic ingredient is sweet Azuki bean paste, often used as Wagasi filling.

8. Devote at least one minute a day to a skill you want to improve.

The principle of Kaizen tells us that any task, no matter how tough and complicated, can be accomplished in small steps. In terms of practicality, it means that if you spend at least one minute every day doing the thing you want to master, you will achieve success. If you want to improve your language skills, devote one minute (or more, if you can) to learning every day and you will see that your skills improve with time. The secret of this principle lies in its systematic nature which makes even one minute of daily activity worth several hours of practice once a week.

9. Make the most of what you have.

Japan can teach the whole world how to make the most out of the least, especially when it comes to the efficient use of limited space. No land for house building in the city? No problem! In Japan, small humble houses appear right between the existing buildings and even though they are small, they have everything necessary for comfortable living.

10. See the beauty in everything.

The Japanese philosophy Wabi-Sabi teaches us to see beauty in everything, even if it is imperfect. A bright example of this principle is the art of Kintsugi which consists in repairing broken ceramics in a special way. The lacquer used to repair broken pieces is mixed with golden, silver, or platinum powder in order to bring out the cracks instead of hiding them. Isn’t it a good lesson of cherishing what we have in our modern world that’s always striving for perfection?

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