(Yours truly on his inaugural trip to Tokyo in August of 2001…)
I’ve been fortunate enough to visit the far east on five separate occasions—twice for work, and thrice by my own design. So why do I keep going back?
I couldn’t quite articulate it until this article on the WIRED website did it for me. If you’re too lazy to click, here’s the gist of it:
The key thing in Chinese culture is harmony, while in the West the key is finding ways to get things done, paying less attention to others.
If that’s too airy-fairy a statement for you, consider this comparison from my real-world experience…
Living on the perimeter of downtown Toronto’s Entertainment District means that, in addition to having the city’s best nightclubs on my doorstep (woo), I have the privilege of hearing all manner of drunken yahoos loudly proclaim to the world how funny/sexy/angry/drunk they are while stumbling towards their parked cars every Friday and Saturday night.
Likewise, my hotel of choice in Shibuya is strategically located at the epicentre of Tokyo nightlife. One evening during our recent stay LinLyn and I spied a group of youngsters, one of them so hammered he literally could not stand and had to rely on his friends to hoist him up and get him back to the subway station. But except for a slow-moving huddle of kids there was literally no disruption for anyone within earshot of this occurrence. Japanese elders might shake their heads in dismay, but I was actually quite impressed.
Sure, modern Asia isn’t without its jerks—spitting in public and jumping queues are just two of Asia’s unique irritants—and yet in my experience I’ve found that folks across the Pacific generally have a respect for their community and environment that I frankly don’t see enough of in North American culture.
Oh, and this doesn’t hurt either…