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We were in Japan for a short stint. We literally spent my daughter’s summer vacations there. From daily park visits to visits to the zoos to shrine visits, being in Japan teaches you a thing or two. I was awestruck by the clean surroundings, safe environment, beautiful gardens, responsible citizens, and much more. Here are some of the things that makes Japan a wonderful place:Safe Environment: We made our way around the city without the fear of being eve teased, harassed or cheated. Japan is quite a safe place, I even saw really young children making their way around the city all alone. Thanks to the low crime rate, children happily make their way to the school unaccompanied, even if it means taking the city bus, train or traversing busy streets. Crimes like petty thefts and pick pocketing are virtually non-existent. This makes children free, independent, and self-reliant. Isn’t this great for the growth and development of children?
Beautiful Gardens/Parks: Tokyo has dozens of large gardens and hundreds of smaller gardens; one can enjoy a little oasis of peace in the middle of the big city. These gardens are full of beautiful flowers, trees and springs. Some of these gardens are also home to beautiful ponds. And if you look closer into the murky water you can easily spot turtles and fishes. On a good day one can find the turtles sunning themselves on the rocks. We spent an enormous amount of time wandering in these parks. From feeding the birds to collecting pebbles to aimless wandering, it was a wonderful experience. Isn’t this interface with nature a valuable experience for children and adults alike? In India, we certainly lack these beautiful open spaces or green patches.
Appreciation of Nature: One of the important characteristics of Japanese culture is the close and harmonious relationship between humans and nature. Children learn to appreciate nature early on. There are important seasonal festivals that celebrate the beauty of nature. For instance, there are festivals around cherry blossom viewing, moon viewing, and snow viewing. During Cheery blossom time, the parks and gardens are flooded with people. One can spot families celebrating the Hanami festival with food, drinks, and songs.
Clean Surroundings: Japan is undoubtedly clean, and littering fines are completely unheard of. But get this, there are no dustbins either. I did come across some recycle bins outside the convenience stores. Japanese people recycle big time! We would need a separate article on their efficient recycling techniques. You might wonder what they do when they have to discard something? Well, Japanese carry their rubbish with them until they reach home.
In India, we have miserably failed inspite of our dedicated campaigns like ‘Swatch Bharat Abhiyan’. How do Japanese manage it? Well, Japanese children from a very young age are taught to keep their surroundings tidy. Children are responsible for ensuring the cleanliness of their campus and classrooms. Cleanliness is associated more with morality than being a menial task that is irksome. By the end of the trip, I observed my 4 year old picking any ‘accidental litter’ from the road.
Consideration for Other People: While traveling from Tokyo to Kyoto, I noticed a mother stepping out of the seating area of the train compartment carrying her ‘crying’ baby near the doors. She only entered the sitting area after calming her baby. Even in the metro, I have seldom seen people taking phone calls. It is considered absolutely disrespectful to talk loudly on the phone. And everyone follows rules! Isn’t it great? But how do Japanese manage this? These things are deeply embedded in their culture. And children learn best by observing the behaviour of adults and copying it. In India it’s rather a norm to break lines, push co-passengers, and talk loudly on the phone. I wonder, how will we teach our children these basic etiquettes?