I have never written a story or an experience of this sort. I have visited Japan once in the past and worked with a lot of Japanese companies like NEC, Fujitsu, and Toshiba, to name a few. I had faint memories (none, to be honest) of my last visit. During this visit to Japan, what touched me was the hospitality and the kindness of the people. I have often heard about the Japanese being tough, difficult negotiators but what I saw of them during this visit was completely contrary. They are professionals in their field, they ask the right questions, and more so, are extremely hard working.
I always thought that Indians work hard, stay late in office, speak to clients at odd hours, etc. And don’t we complain that we spend so much time in the office and hence have less time to spend with our family? The Japanese professionals are out to work when we were having a morning walk at 6 a.m. They were still in office when we were packing our bags to go back to our hotel. Most of the senior guys are in office until midnight and this is their daily routine. Wonder how they can work so hard, every day.
During our consulting assignment we asked what is a normal day for a 4th grade kid is like. This was their response.
- Wake up at 7 a.m.
- Public/private school from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.
- Extra-curricular activities like football, baseball, karate, etc up to 6 p.m.
- Special schools for another 3 hours (Now you know why I qualified the second point). While the public schools are in the same locality where they stay, the kid has to travel to go to a good special school. Sometimes this travel takes about an hour by train one way. By the time the kid gets home it is well past 11 p.m.
- Once they are back home, they would like to play games.
Another interesting characteristic of the Japanese is the punctuality. Be it trains, be it for dinner, or be it for meetings. You would rarely see anyone walk. They are always running, to catch a train, to go for a meeting.
An interesting statistic to note is the average delay of a Shinkansen (Bullet train) in a year is 0.4 minutes. This includes delays caused by typhoon, rains, earthquakes, snowfall, etc. Punctuality is not by accident but by design and it is taught and ingrained in children right from an early age.
After having visited and stayed in Japan for 2 weeks I think there is a lot to learn from the Japanese.
Arigatou Gozaimasu means “thank you very much” in Japanese.
(Anand Subramanian is Head – Systems Design with Tata Interactive Systems)