Tomodachi Spring / Summer 2014


What Surprises Foreigners About Japan

Some things about Japan that seem ordinary to Japanese are surprising to foreigners.

 Whenever we ask foreigners what image they have of Japan, we receive many replies that “The country is clean; the people are polite, and it is a safe place.” So we decided to ask foreigners who have actually visited, “What sort of things surprised you in Japan?”
 The graphic on the right shows the replies received from 50 foreigners in Japan who were asked, “In the event that you have lost an important item* in Japan, has it been returned?” An impressive 68 percent of the respondents answered, “Yes!” And more than half of those people expressed surprise that their “wallet was returned.” Many of them were surprised at the safety and security of this country, which is a delightful result indicative of the excellent public peace and order found in Japan. Another indication of the high level of public safety is that there are many vending machines on the streets, which are not vandalized and always ready to be used.
 Many respondents also seem to have been pleasantly surprised by the fine train service. This may seem only a matter of course to the Japanese, but foreigners highly rate the fact that the trains run exactly on schedule although there are so many of them in operation. Moreover, in connection with high-quality service, foreigners have expressed surprise that taxi doors open and close automatically and at the Japanese attention to small details, such water sprays affixed to toilets for cleansing. A serious nature combined with the spirit of omotenashi (hospitality) has made such highquality service the norm.
 Many foreigners have also expressed surprise at how well the city streets are maintained. Even when no one is looking, people do not discard trash on the streets. Furthermore, when occasionally encountering long lines on a sidewalk or at train stations, Japanese stand properly in rows even without guards or security staff present. The way the Japanese people helped one another amid all the confusion following the disasters of the great earthquake and tsunami on March 11, 2011, even became a topic of discussion in other countries. Japanese behavior is typified by observing rules and is based on a spirit of mutual aid: an exemplary consciousness of avoiding acts that would cause trouble to others and of coming to the rescue when others are in distress.
 Security, service, and public order, which foreigners have expressed surprise about, all seem to be based on this sort of spirit, which is treasured by the Japanese people. However, these things are so natural to the Japanese that many of them go unnoticed until they are pointed out by foreigners. (*“Important items” refers here to various types of personal bags, personal computers, smart-phones, wallets, etc.)

Did You Ever Lose Something Valuable in Japan? Was It Returned?