What I have learned in Japan

I love visiting Japan! The Japanese culture is rich and filled with traditions that have been passed down through the generations. Embracing simplicity, always being respectful, and learning to reduce stress are just a few of the lessons that I have observed on my trips there.

What I have learned in Japan

Lesson #1. Always Be Respectful.

Respect is at the center of Japanese culture. One of my fondest memories is when I went to a winter festival in Sapporo. There amongst the nearly 200 ice sculptures, all lit from within with lanterns and lights, were families with children. I found myself observing how they interacted with one another. While many other cultures tend to be more open, and let manners slide from time to time among their family members and friends, the Japanese are known for being more formal and conservative. Young children are taught early on about the importance of respecting their elders, possessions, and the world at large. I saw this in the way even the very young children politely asked permission before engaging with the various hands-on displays.

When speaking with some of the visitors who were from nearby areas, I learned that the early childhood lessons include always arriving on time, removing shoes before entering a home, and being considerate of others in every single social act. Additionally, you will see adults greet each other with a bow as a sign of respect. Titles of honor, including -sun, -sama, -kun, and -chan are also used to show respect. There is a wonderful embedded expectation within Japanese society that all individuals will act with an appropriate level of etiquette and decorum, especially when they are out in public.

Lesson #2. Waste Less to Create a Smaller Environmental Footprint.

Walking the streets of Japan can be a strange experience for Americans who are used to seeing litter clutter their favorite cities. In fact, many places in Japan don’t have public garbage cans. Instead, people will carry their trash with them until they have arrived at their destination, returned home, or have found a location with a wastebasket. The Japanese approach to waste has led to spotless streets and an incredibly efficient recycling system. As a whole, the country has adopted a “waste less” approach to creating a smaller environmental footprint. This smaller footprint is enhanced by energy efficiencies throughout the workplace and zero landfill waste policies.

Lesson #3. Cleanliness is Key to a Healthier Life.

Cleanliness goes hand-in-hand with respect in Japanese culture. To help promote a healthier life that stems from cleanliness, the Japanese are known for distributing wet towels before meals. Imagine my shock and delight when I purchased something and my cash transactions were completed with the assistance of a tray! The money is placed on the tray so that the customer and cashier do not have to touch hands, which is both an act of cleanliness and respectful consideration. The latter consideration can also be seen by the numerous people who wear surgical masks out in public. When I inquired about them, I was told that the masks are not to prevent catching a cold, but are typically worn because the wearer is already sick and does not want to spread germs to others. I found that this high level of consideration is just one of the many ways that the Japanese embrace cleanliness throughout their daily lives. It is not a bad thing to adopt in our own country, for sure.

Lesson #4. Live Longer by Eating Well, Meditating, and Walking Often.

Did you know that Japan is home to a blue zone? Blue zones denote areas in the world where a high proportion of the population live past 100. In addition to having a blue zone, a 2014 World Health Organization (WHO) report discovered that Japanese women have the highest life expectancy throughout the globe. The Japanese way of life can help teach us how to live longer by eating well, meditating and walking often. The latter mentalities are ingrained into daily life by eating small portions, preferring lower-calorie foods, and making time for tea to help aid digestion and promote emotional well-being. When speaking with a Japanese mother, I was told that Japanese children are taught these valuable life lessons at a young age. They are also encouraged to walk to school to help prevent obesity. Children and adults often combine exercise and meditation, enjoying and honoring nature on a daily basis through group and individual activities. While they aren’t immune to technology, and use it in their daily lives, they have found a way to balance that…definitely something I plan to incorporate in my own life!

Lesson #5. Reduce Stress by Finding Pleasure in the Simple Things.

In addition to eating well, meditating, and walking often, the Japanese have also discovered the joy in reducing stress by finding the pleasure in simple things. From meals, to drinking tea, to decorating a home or office, simplicity is embraced by the Japanese. Instead of rushing or eating while walking to work, meals are enjoyed in a relaxing environment. Rituals, such as preparing, pouring, and enjoying tea, are done with a pride that dates back hundreds of years. I have returned to Japan many times, and on every visit I’ve always made a point of enjoying a tea ceremony in a lovely tea house somewhere. The Japanese culture also has a love for nature that can be seen in their minimalist approach to life. This love for nature, coupled with enjoying the simple things in life, has led to a culture that is respectful, considerate, and mindful of the past, present, and future.

In conclusion, Japan has numerous lessons that it can teach us. The importance of respect, the ability to create a smaller environmental footprint by wasting less, the vitality that is created through cleanliness, the ability to live longer by eating well, meditating, and walking often, and finding joy through the simplest things, are just a few of the lessons that I have brought back with me from Japan, and some that I continue to incorporate into my life to this day. Which of the above seem like they might work for you? I’d love to hear from you and what you’ve learned from your travels!

Nabila Khashoggi loves to travel and share the exciting truths from her many years of adventure. This same care and attention is offered through her exclusive line of cosmetics, home goods, and travel items sourced during her many treks around the world.

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