17 November, 2012

Rules are important in Japan

I'm not much interested in fishing, so I almost didn't read this article, even though a number of my missionary colleagues recommended it. But it proved to not be about fishing at all.

It is about figuring out how to get along with others in Japan.
Rules are very important here. Japan is a highly structured and hierarchical society. There is a rule and regulation for everything - but there is also a huge fear of conflict.
I love it that he's couched this learning in a story about getting footage for the BBC about some disputed islands . . .

Over the last few days I've been trying to think of a personal example where we're abided by rules on the surface, while everyone, including the rule-enforcers, know that our intent is something else altogether. I've failed to come up with a good example.

The best example I have of appearing to obey the rules, but not really, is the rule at our former local swimming pool of "no sunscreen allowed." Nor was shirts (unless they were proper swimming shirts, forget the name...), nor were hats when you were in the water. Yes, this was an outdoor swimming pool with no shade. So, us swimming there with our lily-white skin was impossible, unless we put sunscreen on before we left home. No one checked of course, and because we didn't do it at the pool, it was totally acceptable.

Yes indeed. Obeying the letter of the law and avoiding conflict is important here. Unfortunately they don't seem to obey the "helmets for under 12s" law nor the "seatbelts for everyone in the car" or the "no more than one child on a bike" law. No idea why those are less important than "taking your shoes off at the door" or "no shoes on the train seat" rule . . .


Gary and Barbara said...

Oh, yes. I remember those days of applying sunscreen on the kids and ourselves before leaving home to go the swimming pool.

And for a long time after we first arrived in Japan, I decided that since everywhere seemed to have signs saying "No parking," but people parked everywhere, the signs meant no parking overnight.

Only later did I notice "no parking" meant "If we are checking and chalk your tire, you have 10 or 15 minutes, and if you haven't moved by the time we return, we'll ticket you."

Of course, that changed several years ago when they changed the law and did away with the grace period. If no one is in the driver's seat who can immediately move the vehicle, and enforcement comes around, it's an instant ticket. So no more quick stops with your car at the station by yourself while you run in to get a Gingerbread Latte anymore!

KarenKTeachCamb said...

Could also interpret it their actions this way. They were fishing! Fishing for news footage and a story. Just to make sure their story would keep the authorities happy they happened to catch a few of the finned variety of fish as well. I like it.

Interesting rule about helmets. Here in Cambodia moto drivers have to wear them, but the passengers don't! Go figure that one out.

Wendy said...

Okay, so I've been corrected. There is no law about bicycle helmets, just a "recommendation". Also, there is a "seat belts for under 12s law" but there is no fine if you break it (except on the highway) so most people don't obey it (except on the highway). Just like there's a law to pay your TV licence but no penalty if you don't.

Very interesting...