Posted by: geoffropuff | December 21, 2008

tsca january article

like i said, i would post the article i wrote for the torrance sister city association newsletter.  hope you think it’s interesting.

30th anniversary orange juice

R-E-S-P-E-C-T

By Geoff Tsudama

Living in Japan for the past 4 months has taught me that respect is one of, if not THE most important value to Japanese people.  I’ve learned that a bow, a smile, and a few words formally spoken can right almost any wrong.

Until coming to live here, I never really thought too much about respect.  I mean, everyone learns that you should respect your elders, respect your peers, and most of all, respect yourself, but it’s always more of an implicit thing.  Here, the people explicitly show respect in almost every aspect of their daily lives. Let me run you through a normal day at school: I walk from my car to the main school building (3 students greeting me and bowing).  I walk from the lobby up to the English teachers’ room (2 students greet and bow, and 2 teachers greet and bow).  We have morning meeting in the main teachers’ room (all teachers greet and bow toward the principal).  I could go on but I think you get the point.

Recently we celebrated Ichikashi’s 30th anniversary and respect played a big role in the celebration.  Of course the ceremony was very nice and respectful, but the occurrence that stood out to me was the banquet following the ceremony.  At the banquet, I noticed some people carrying bottles around and I thought, “Man, Japanese people know how to party!”  I was very wrong.  Apparently, it is custom to never pour your own drink; people around you are supposed to pour for you as a sign of respect. You normally pour for people at your own table, but if you want to talk to someone at another table, make sure you bring a bottle!

To keep with tradition, I went and poured a drink for the basketball coach who had let me practice with the team the previous week.  He had driven to the event, so I poured him a glass of orange juice.  In Japan, as a driver, you must not take even one sip of alcohol.  The driver must respect him/herself and the other drivers on the road by not partaking even a little bit.  In fact, if you are caught drinking and driving, everyone in the car with you is punished as well!  Their rationale is that the passengers should have known better than to let you drive.  Having lost a friend to a hit-and-run drunk driver, I can appreciate this respect.

Another example that has shown me the extent to which respect is ingrained on society is everyday before the end of school there is a time called “osouji” in which the students spend about 15 minutes cleaning the school.  They clean the chalkboards, sweep the halls, take out the day’s trash, and even clean the bathrooms.  I bet American high school students wouldn’t trash the restrooms if they knew they were the ones hand-washing the toilets later!  The students show respect for their school which in turn brings a good reputation and respect to the school.  I usually reward the students who clean our teachers’ room with some candy or snacks.

We were talking in the teacher’s room last week about a report on the news that Japanese students were caught shoplifting at LAX airport.  My first reaction would normally be, “That’s terrible.  They should know better,” but I immediately thought that the Japanese would see them as disrespecting Japan.  Sure enough, the first reaction I got from a fellow teacher was, “They are the shame of Japan!”  I couldn’t help but chuckle to myself that I am beginning to think like a Japanese person.  Hopefully I can conduct myself in a respectful manner as to not be the shame of Torrance!

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Responses

  1. Very nice article. I like it!
    Happy New Year!

  2. “They are the shame of Japan!” – haha i’ve heard that so many times before in Japan.
    glad you’re still able to hoop over there. props to the coach.


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