We Culture vs Me Culture

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Back from our big trip. It was an incredible experience and I confirmed (to myself) that I am really good at trip planning. Thanks again to tripadvisor for never failing me! There were no surprises. All hotels and activities were as expected and everything went well.

There will be a few blog posts about this trip since we visited 3 countries. This one is about Japan.

Prior to the trip I did some research to make sure I understood proper etiquette (tipping, bowing etc.) I came across an explanation of the medical masks that so many people wear, even though the SARS epidemic is long over, which said people wear them when they are getting sick to prevent spreading germs to other people. Another website talked about how Japanese culture focuses on what is good for the group/society, not the individual. I think the masks is one example of what I called the “we culture.” Other examples of this is the ban on talking on a cell phone on public transit. We rode a lot of trains in the week we were there and only once did I see a person talking on their cell phone, and they had their hand cupped over the phone and their mouth to be as quiet as possible. They are a cell phone obsessed society, everyone is on some sort electric device, yet no one talks on their phone because it’s loud and disruptive. Even when they talk, it’s hushed. It was bizarre being in one of the most populated cities in the world and yet it was quiet. We also saw signs that said there is a bylaw against “doing anything that will annoy other people.” Pretty incredible that this concept runs all the way up to the law.

One site I read said that Japanese high school students were asked what the biggest risk is to society in the next generation, and the top response was individualism. This is north american culture. We are all about me, not we. Japan has a real bike culture, but there is no fighting between drivers and cyclists because they ride on the sidewalk. People here panic at this suggestion talking about how dangerous it is, but in Japan it works. People on bikes are aware of the pedestrians and they just go around them or hit the brakes until they can get through. Would that ever work here?

Not that I am sure I would be able to put everyone else ahead of what I want, but it was very interesting to be in a place where you didn’t have people yelling in to their cell phones everywhere and anywhere because they don’t care who listens or who they are interrupting. It was fascinating to experience a cultural theory like this and think about how we treat each other as a society.

Japan is an expensive country to visit, but worth the splurge. Tokyo was cool to see, but it really is a city where people live and not so much a touristy place. The exception to this is Tokyo Disney. We went to Tokyo Disney Sea and it was incredible! It didn’t really feel like a Disney park as it isn’t based on the traditional disney characters but the detail in the design is amazing and the rides were awesome – with almost none of them being the same as the US Disney parks (they have a Magic Kingdom park with the traditional rides). This is the full size Tower of Terror building.
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Osaka has a crazy night scene at Dotombori and shopping at Shinsaibashi, the castle is nice on the outside but a modern museum on the inside. We enjoyed this Namba Yasaka shrine, once we found it.
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My favorite part of Japan was Kyoto. It’s beautiful! The tori gate picture at the top is from a temple that has a trail where you walk through thousands of tori gates. If you go to Japan, don’t miss Kyoto.

I’ll write about Thailand and Cambodia next.

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