Lessons we Can Learn from the Japanese Culture

27 Nov 2019 | Naomi Marshall

I recently went on a holiday to Japan and I have realised there are a number of lessons we can all learn from the Japanese culture.

I like to show gratitude for a number of things. However, today I’m thanking Japan for hosting the World Cup and thanking my husband for being a diehard All Blacks supporter. With those two things combined I was fortunate enough to travel to the crazy city of Tokyo to enjoy the buzz and hype of the 2019 Rugby World Cup tournament.

Being an avid traveller and having always loved the excitement of seeing how other nationalities live, I was super excited about visiting Japan. Plenty of research went into the trip: where to eat, what to see, and the rules and expectations for how to integrate with the locals.

However, when we arrived in Tokyo, all of that went out the window. We arrived super early in the morning, found our bearings and dumped our bags at the hotel to hit the streets. It was a Wednesday so a standard work day. In downtown Toyko. Lots of office buildings around us, at about 8.15am…and it was…

QUIET….and I mean, really quiet.

Sure there were cars buzzing past, but we realised they were all electric!  This makes such a huge difference to their pollution levels (both air and noise).  I also noticed that no-one seemed to be ‘agro’. There was no honking of horns, yelling out windows or screeching of brakes.  It was nothing like Market Street in the Sydney CBD, below us here at SprintHQ.

The second thing I noticed was that no one was on their phone – and again, I mean NO ONE.

Everyone walked in an orderly fashion. Calmly but swiftly, with purpose. Looking ahead, being aware, being in their own company with zero distractions. This was so polar compared to Sydney, where you’ll see anything from people staring face down into their screens walking into others: FaceTiming a friend, to having the entire conversation heard by everyone in a 3 metre radius.  I have to admit this was all quite refreshing.

Public Transport in Japan

Next up, it was time to jump on the train.  An interesting experience when you combine the complexity of the rail system, the language barrier to purchase a ticket and trying to work out what direction to go in.  We were pleasantly surprised and thankful when we noticed how helpful people were. A man stopped as he walked past us trying to navigate the ticketing machine to say he spoke English and could offer his assistance – WHAT THE?? There didn’t seem to be anything off about him. He was well dressed, on his way to work and was not going to gain anything by stopping.  Yet there he was with all this genuine sincerity.  We took him up on his offer! On numerous occasions during the trip we were supported by many kind, polite and authentic locals.

The Japanese don’t eat on trains. They don’t speak loudly in public areas or on public transport. They wouldn’t dream of watching a video on their phones in public without headphones. They clean up after themselves after sitting at a coffee shop table. They never cross the street without the green man beeping and they certainly don’t litter – they are simply respectful of their country, their surroundings and each other.


For anyone who knows me, knows one of my absolute pet hates is people behaving badly in public. People who don’t show respect to others irk me to no end.  Those who share their conversations on the bus for everyone to hear (it’s rude), talk loudly at a restaurant table and don’t consider their surroundings (it’s rude), eat and drop food where others will sit after them then walk away and expect someone to clean up their mess (it’s rude).

So to say I loved the calming, respectful nature of the Japanese is an understatement.

I think we can all learn some lessons from Japanese culture and I for one will be practicing the new ‘modern art’ of walking the streets without my phone in my hand, being in my own company and actually taking in what is going on around me!

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