Japan is organized. It’s hard to argue with that viewpoint, and it’s obvious why. If Japanese culture wasn’t based on systematization how could the country possibly crank out the likes of World Order?
The beauty of top MMA fighters in business suits.
And yet, I think Japan feels more like organized chaos.
Up until last month, I worked as a SIM card/cell phone salesman in one of Tokyo’s larger electronic stores. There is a striking contrast between American and Japanese retail culture, something that can be felt even before entering the main entrance. For those of you who’ve visited any Asian farmers market such as the Tsukiji Fish Market, you would know that it’s common practice for shopkeepers to attract customers through indirect or direct yelling. You would assume this wouldn’t extend past areas that wanted to keep a sense of tradition, and you would be entirely wrong.
This store (the Akihabara branch) has 9 floors filled with consumer electronics. I only had the liberty of working on the first floor, and was never allowed to leave the small corner that was my company’s vendor. But that was enough. From 9 AM to 10 PM everyday nobody could hear themselves think. If someday power could be generated from noise, I would install the system right there. And it wasn’t the sound of thousands of footsteps flowing through every hour. It wasn’t the noise of advertisements blaring out of display monitors from every vendor. It was the single word coming out of every salesman at the rate of 5-10 times a minute.
For trainees, that’s about it. For seasoned employees? Monologues. Freakin Monologues. Of course, they also hired women to stand in front to do the same AND look good doing it. You’d be surprised how well that worked.
Yet, this was all order. Japanese Order. The reason it’s so chaotic is due to Japanese work culture: The Customer is God.
Japanese work ethics work something like this: The Customer—> The Workplace—->Your Boss—-> You
What you find is that no matter what you do, as an employee your number goal is to please the customer. That means making them feel welcome the moment they come into the store (with a smile and a greeting), answering any and all questions asked (even if it doesn’t pertain to your niche), and never facing your customer from a downwards angle.
Order creates hierarchy. The Japanese are notorious for their modern bureaucracies.
It’s why women are still discriminated in the workplace. It’s the reason that salarymen have to stay overtime simply because the boss hasn’t left yet. It’s why the word すみません (sumimasen) becomes your vocabulary bread and butter.
Because if you so choose to go against the flow, you’ll be socially sanctioned.
Nobody likes to break routine, but for Japan maybe it’s time to westernize a little more in the right direction.