If you've ever spent an extended period of time in Japan, you know that life in Japan and life in America are totally different. While both cultures have their pros and cons, we think Americans can learn a thing or two from daily life in Japan. The culture is filled with rich traditions based on mutual respect, simplicity and embracing things that are just a bit outside the box.
Check out seven lessons Americans can learn from the Japanese below.
1. Show your respect for others.
Respect is a no-brainer when it comes to Japanese culture. The Japanese are more formal and conservative than Americans and it shows from the moment you come into contact with another person. From greeting someone with a bow to removing shoes before entering a home (or temple or occasional restaurant), every social act is completed with consideration for others. Titles (sun, sama, kun and chan) are used as suffixes to honor whoever someone is speaking to. There is an expectation that members of society will act with a certain level of etiquette and decorum.
In short, Aretha would approve.
2. Take pleasure in the simple things.
Whether eating, drinking tea or choosing home decor, simplicity is key. Enjoying a meal is a relaxing and leisurely experience and it's uncommon to find the Japanese eating while walking (in fact, doing so is considered verboten). The Japanese take pride in their rituals, like their elaborate tea ceremonies. Since the culture has a deep love and respect for nature, greenery is a staple in their minimalist interior design.
3. Don't waste anything -- trash, time or money.
When walking through Japan, garbage cans are no where to be found. People carry their trash with them until they arrive home or at a destination with a wastebasket, which leads to practically spotless streets and a highly efficient recycling system. In fact, nearly all Japanese manufacturers pride themselves on energy efficiency and zero-landfill waste policies. The Japanese also prefer to save their money rather than spend it on items they don't need.
4. Make hygiene a priority.
Cleanliness matters to the Japanese. Wet towels are distributed before meals. During a transaction at a store, cash is placed on a tray, ensuring the customer and cashier do not touch hands. There's a common misconception that people wear surgical masks to avoid catching a cold, but it is typically because the wearer is sick and is trying to keep those in close proximity germ-free. Japanese baths, or sentō, are a common ritual that is in part related to their Shinto and Buddhist background.
5. Be on time.
Running late? Try not to. It's seen as a sign of disrespect for the other person's time (ahem, millennials). In Japan, even the trains are always on time. In fact, the Tokaido Shinkansen, which has operated for nearly half a century without a single derailment or collision, had an average departure delay of 18 seconds in 2007.
6. Eat well, walk often and meditate.
Here's a fascinating statistic: Japan is home to one of the world's few blue zones, or areas where an unusual proportion of people live past 100. Also, a 2014 World Health Organization report found that women in Japan have the highest life expectancy in the world. What are their secrets? Healthy choices are ingrained into their everyday lives. Aside from having universal health care, Japanese people eat small portions of lower-calorie foods like fish and vegetables and they always make time for tea. Younger citizens are encouraged to walk to school which prevents obesity. They practice meditation and spend a lot of time appreciating and enjoying nature.
7. Celebrate the weird and quirky.
They might be a conservative culture, but make no mistake: Japan is host to some quirky trends. Take the island of rabbits that exists in Japan's Inland Sea, or the culture's modern toilets that have Americans totally obsessed.
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