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My first contact with an educated and experienced Japanese man dates back to 1968 when we were apprenticing together at Britain’s Barclays Bank, living with the same English family.
From ‘Kanjiro’ I learned a lot about his country, the Japanese morals, his multiple religious beliefs, and the ease of his transfer from one faith to another depending on the circumstances.
I have previously written several articles about my experience with him and with Japan in general. Two years before I met Kanjiro, I had a different experience with the Japanese.
At the Gulf Bank, where I worked, the bank’s top management was purely British. For one reason or another they paid great attention to my training and asked me to take part in some meetings despite my young age and lack of experience, with visitors to the bank from international banks, perhaps in order to push me to gain more self-confidence.
My first meeting was with representatives of a well-known Japanese bank, and it was as useful as it was funny and strange, for I learned from it that Japanese delegations are seldom restricted to an individual, unlike their European or American peers, who visited solo. I also noticed that all members of the Japanese delegation wrote down everything that was said at the meeting. As for the Westerners, their representative was content to write down main points of what was being said.
One day I asked the Scottish manager about the reason for the clear differences between the number of members of the Japanese and Western delegations, and the reason for the apparent eagerness of the Japanese to write down every word said, compared to the lack of keenness of the members of the Western delegations on this.
The manager said the Japanese, because of the language barrier, do not wish to miss anything from the meeting and they match the texts they noted down with each other for fear that one of them may have forgotten a word or did not understand a certain point.
The Japanese also believes in institutional teamwork more than the Western belief in the matter, other than the absence of language or cultural differences in the latter with the bank managers.
A few years later, I visited Japan and I sat in the carriage of one of its punctual express trains, chose a quiet carriage, which was completely empty, and was listening to music on my mobile phone after plugging in the earphones, and watching the picturesque scenery.
The train was traveling at nearly four hundred kilometers per hour. Suddenly the inspector came to me and asked me for my ticket, and when he finished punching it, he asked me very politely to move to another place. I told him I listen to music through an earpiece, I don’t make any calls, and there is no one around. He said this is true, but what if you receive a call and your phone rings. His clear logic prompted me to move to another place.
I also learned through them how important time is to the convergence of sanctity, in return for our indifference to time in our societies to the point of contempt, without realizing that it is indeed the most valuable thing in the life of any human being, therefore you find train operators competing with each other over who is more accurate than others in the arrival and departure times.
Note: I apologize for the absence of yesterday’s article, after Al-Qabas saw that it was not suitable for publication, in addition to two other articles.
Thanks to everyone who called and kindly asked me about the reason.
By Ahmad alsarraf