Japan: A culture of respect and discipline

Japan: A culture of respect and discipline
"I am a city girl, yet the hustle bustle and pulse of Tokyo charmed me like no other." - Naureen Kamal

UAE residents share their thoughts and personal experiences of visiting the Land of the Rising Sun


Farhana Chowdhury

Published: Sun 16 Oct 2016, 11:53 AM

Last updated: Thu 16 Jan 2020, 11:02 AM

Dr Faouzi Bouslama
CIS Program Chair, Dubai Men's College, Higher Colleges of Technology

I was very fortunate to have a great life experience in Japan, which stretched for almost 15 years. This experience was very rewarding and positively impacted my whole career and personal life.
In fact, it all started in March of 1986, when I was selected by the Japanese Embassy in Tunis, Tunisia, to receive the prestigious MUNBUSHO scholarship from the Japanese Government to allow me to pursue my graduate studies in Japan. As I did not know the Japanese language, I had to join an intensive Japanese language course at Tsukuba University that allowed me to quickly learn and later use the language in my studies and daily communications with the local people. Not only was I able to successfully complete all of my graduate studies on time, I was lucky to mingle and collaborate with the local people where I made many friends.
They offered me opportunities to take part in community-led initiatives. Often, I was invited to give talks to a variety of Japanese audiences about my experience as a foreign student. Overall, I have had a wonderful life experience that allowed me not only to discover Japan up close, but also to improve my technical and emotional skills. Today, I continue to teach people about Japan and create opportunities for students to visit and discover this great country.

Ahmad Bukhash
Director - Urban Planning, Dubai Creative Clusters Authority

During my childhood I was always interested in Japanese animation, which attracted me to their creative story lines and beautiful hand drawings. It also conveyed aspects of the culture, which I was fascinated with. As I continued my Bachelor of Architecture courses in Boston, I made many Japanese friends who introduced me to the modern architecture of Japan. It was based on minimalist design approach that fascinated me even more.
After completing my studies in the US in 2002; I was informed that the Ministry of Higher Education in the UAE was offering scholarships to Japan in conjunction with the Japan Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT). Of course, I jumped to this opportunity, as this was a perfect chance to combine my two passions together - Architecture and learning about the Japanese culture. I was accepted for the scholarship not long after. Accordingly, I successfully completed my Masters of Engineering in Architecture and Design at the Kyoto Institute of Technology from 2003 until 2006.
The experience I had in Japan as a student was a life changing one. As a scholar of the MEXT programme, I was treated with utmost respect, since it is one of the most prestigious scholarship programmes in the country and also among the most difficult ones to obtain. Furthermore, even as a UAE resident, my Japanese classmates greeted me with open arms and supported me throughout my studies. Noting that it is challenging task to learn a whole new language, while researching in your own specialised field. I believe that the Japanese in general feel a close kinship and fascination with the UAE in regards to how we retain our local culture and rich heritage despite the speed of modern development within the country, since to them the retention of their own local identity is critical and essential as it is for us.
Japan has strongly influenced my lifestyle since graduation. I have learnt to live more modestly and be more organised in my everyday life. Japan does not have the luxury of having opulent spaces for personal use while space is abundant in the UAE. Accordingly, residents in Japan pay special attention on cleanliness; recycling and limiting the discard of waste within the country. The Japanese also respect order in terms of their life routines such as complying with pedestrian, driving and cycling etiquette.
The most fascinating thing about Japan is that regardless of how many times you visit or stay in the country, the feeling that you can explore more from its rich and warm culture never leaves you.

Naureen Kamal

I grew up hearing wonderful tales of honour and honesty about people from the land of rising sun. Fast forward to my early 20s, I rediscovered anime, which most of us grew up watching in Arabic dub on the local TV channels. As much as anime helped me become familiar with everything Japan was about, I had to go and experience it for myself.
I had visited Japan this summer and it left me speechless. I did not want to come back to the UAE. My itinerary had Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka and my trip of 11 days did not do justice to the cities I visited. I had encountered Tokyoites' impeccable mannerism. I had strangers help me with my luggage, not once but several times. I could approach anyone for directions.
The metro, the Shinkansen and their orderliness were somehow very elegant. The main door of the hostel I stayed in while in Kyoto was never locked, which made me realise how integrity is fostered among them and why every miniscule detail of the country dazzled me. It felt like every other citizen marched towards the goal of striving for excellence. I am a city girl, yet the hustle bustle and pulse of Tokyo charmed me like no other.

Natasha Thomas
News Desk Editor, ARN News

My husband and I had always wanted to visit Japan, and it has been on our bucket list ever since we got married. We usually plan one big holiday every year, and thought we'd look into Japan. Fortunately, it worked out perfectly. Lots of people are wary about travelling to Japan because of the distance and the perception that it's too expensive, but we found that the only major cost involved was the flight ticket. If you plan your journey properly and book tickets when there are deals on airlines, it will cost just as much as a trip to Europe.
In Japan, we went to Tokyo, Kyoto, Hiroshima and Miyajima and loved everything about the country. Apart from the fact that all the destinations were beautiful and had unique offerings in terms of things to eat or places to visit and stay, the main thing that stood out for us were the people and the culture. They have a lot of respect for each other and the environment, and are very friendly with visitors. Every single person we spoke to went out of his or her way to help.
We also loved the fact that the entire country is pedestrian-friendly (everyone either walks or cycles) and everything is spotless - whether it's a public space or a five-star hotel. I can't wait to go back again. There is so much more to explore in Japan.
From the places we visited, the walk around the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park and Museum will stay with me for life. The area is a memorial for the thousands of people who were killed in the atomic bombing in 1945. It was a very poignant experience to relive what happened there all those years ago.
People in Japan are so mindful of others and I hope I have imbibed some of those values. It's amazing how much respect they have for their surroundings and others. In the 10 days we spent there, we didn't hear a phone ring or heard anyone talking loudly on their phone. People always leave a room to take a call or keep their phones on silent when using public transport. And the simple reason is that the Japanese culture teaches its people to respect others from a very young age. Now there's a lesson for many of us from the rest of the world.
Laila Helena Poblete

Nippon, the Land of the Rising Sun, is a beautiful country filled with diverse culture, breathtaking views, and impressive people. In my opinion, we have numerous things to learn and set an example coming from this country. The locals in Japan are well-mannered. Their practices and way of living give an aura filled with inspiration.An admiration, which I would like to share from the Japanese people is that they are very organised and helpful. Whenever we ask for directions, they would go out their way to guide or assist until we reached our destination.
When staying in Tokyo, everyone would line up on the left side of the escalator to give way to those in a hurry. One of the most memorable trips within Japan was visiting the city of Kyoto. A place recommended to experience the traditional Japanese culture. We spent our days in awe as we visited several areas and learned about their history. Notable places were the Fushimi Inari Shrine, Kinkaku-ji Temple, Tenru-ji Temple, Arashiyama Bamboo Groove and Gion. Words cannot describe the feeling each place gives, until one personally experiences it. A whole different world is born.
Being an anime, game, and Japanese music fan, Akihabara and Odaiba were the two places I enjoyed visiting the most. We visited places like a Vampire café, Gundam café (Odaiba) and Maid café. It feels like the places shown in anime have been brought to life. Even the world of cosplay speaks of freedom. Osaka was an amazing place to see talented street music performers. If given a chance, I would spend an entire day just to watch and listen to them perform their music. We were blessed to watch the Osaka Festival. The sounds of beating drums as the river boats sped by was blissful to the ears.

Media Kameran
Content Coordinator, MBC

I've been interested in the Japanese culture from a very early age. One of my first encounters was a painting of a geisha in our house, whose beautiful kimono fascinated me. Besides that, my family and I used to watch a Japanese game show together, which was dubbed in Arabic. Growing up, most of the things I liked originated from Japan - games, anime, manga, food, nature, history/stories, architecture, technology, etc. Not to mention, the country itself radiates an air of mystery, as you don't see or hear much about it in our region (in the media).
I visited Japan for the first time last year, and was in awe with everything. I was even able to watch a ceremony take place in a shrine. It's a lively, vibrant country, and people are active. You see many using bicycles to go around, or just walk. They are very polite and organised too. The city of Tokyo was clean, safe and well connected by the metro.
The food I had was amazing - delicious and neatly presented. As I like anime, I was very happy to see many shops and arcades. Another thing I've always admired about Japan is that while it is one of the most advanced countries out there, you don't see them brag about it.

Salem Mohammed

My love for Japan started with anime ever since my older brothers and friends introduced me to it when I was young. I later discovered that there is more to the country than just TV series - I was fascinated with the food, culture, etc. In 2009, I set a goal for myself to visit Japan and see everything in person, and finally went for the first time with friends in 2013.
I was blown away by the experience. Japanese people are extremely polite; they follow discipline and everything was neat and organised, especially when waiting for the trains or going on the escalators. One of the first areas I'd was visited Akihabara in Tokyo, as that was my main reason for the trip and is known to be the ultimate shopping destination for anime and manga fans (otakus). Besides Tokyo, I have also visited Osaka, Kyoto and Kobe, as well as the Tochigi Prefecture. Because there is so much to experience in Japan, it has become a habit for me to visit the country at least once every year.
One of the most memorable parts of my trip was visiting Nikko city in Tochigi Prefecture, which exuded peace and serenity. I got to experience the hot springs as well as a chance to view a procession called the March of 1,000 Samurai. It was amazing being able to experience an authentic Japanese festival, where I enjoyed sampling the freshly prepared snacks from the stalls set in breathtaking scenery.
Overall from this trip, I have learned to appreciate the simple things in life, and that everything has value - whether it is people, objects or surroundings - and each should be treated with care and respect.
- farhana@khaleejtimes.com

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