THE ART OF JAPANESE LIVING
I recently came back from a two week trip to Japan with my hubby for his birthday, and as much as I had heard Japan is an incredible country, I loved it even more than I could have imagined.
I spent the time we had traveling throughout Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka, Nara, Hakone and Kanazawa observing the beautiful way that the people of Japan live. My days were filled with simplicity, serenity, art, efficiency, kindness, and of course, spa-like bathrooms everywhere! I vowed that I would implement as much of this as I could to my day to day life here in Toronto. When I came back I was gushing about my experience to friends and family and I thought I would share some of my highlights and takeaways from the trip:
At Shibuya Crossing, one of the busiest intersections of the most populated city in the world, I experienced sheer silence. Cars weren’t honking, people weren’t yelling - there was simply no noise pollution. It was amazing how calm I could feel in a place where all other senses would normally be so heightened. It was the most organized crosswalk I’ve ever seen and I had so much appreciation for how mindful everyone was of each other’s personal space.
There is so much pride and honour in the work that is produced by the Japanese. Whether it was a sales associate folding clothing like art in true Marie Kondo fashion, or a train station worker sweeping dust away after the crowds dispersed, I was immediately taken by the fact that service industry positions seem to be highly respected and regarded by those performing them.
Rules are respected. I was so impressed by how many rules were in place, and how much they were abided by. We didn’t dare to jay walk, we had to take our own trash with us after eating at the park, we turned our cell phones on silent in the train and spoke to each other in a whisper, and we never left an establishment without bowing in thanks. With everyone around us following these guidelines, it results in a community where each person is held accountable and empowered to play their part for the betterment of their country’s future.
That being said, life really is so much easier when you’re part of a society that just runs efficiently. You would assume that a city with such a large population would be somewhat chaotic, but the Japanese have created so many efficiencies that have things operating like clockwork. A few of the most noticeable ones were: a) The transit system - extremely complex yet perfectly executed. Trains were insanely quick, frequent and on time down to the second. b) The washrooms! Toilet seats open upon entering the stall, waterfall music plays, and then the toilet flushes automatically, resulting in the cleanest bathrooms I have ever seen in the 35 countries I have visited. I now long for Japanese bathrooms on a daily basis. c) Maximizing space - as the cities continue to grow, you’ll find hidden gems everywhere (once you can actually locate them). We had some of the best coffee at an adorable hidden shop located in a parking garage of all places, and the yummiest sandwich at a 3rd floor sandwich shop. Making creative use of space is urban planning at it’s finest, and I’m all about it!
Kindness of strangers. We thought that the language barrier would make things difficult, however with the help of Google translate and a lot of hand actions and pointing, we were able to communicate with almost everyone. We never felt like we stood out and every single person we asked for help was so receptive and went out of their way for us. One train station worker actually left his booth and sprinted with us to ensure we caught the train that was scheduled to leave in a minute, and I had a lovely exchange with a Japanese grandmother who guided me through the transitional Onsen ritual.
The beauty that surrounded us. From the Cherry Blossoms that were in bloom, to the Bamboo Forest, the Zen Gardens, the hot springs in the mountains and the wild deer roaming in Nara, we were truly blown away at how much natural beauty there was to appreciate everywhere we turned. In Toronto I’ve been bringing the outdoors indoors with new Experiences like our Watercolour Palm Painting Class.
There are so many elements of the Japanese culture that align with my overall approach to life, and also to my business, and I’m so thankful I had the opportunity to witness it first-hand. When I returned, I was interviewed for The After30 Podcast where I expand on this topic in an episode titled Building a Non-Empire. It was a conversation I loved having. We talked balance, #slowentrepreneurship and not giving into the pressure to constantly create, but rather actually being able to do more with less. If you feel like continuing to explore this notion and the desire to remove “hustle” from your vocabulary then have a listen and let me know what you think in the comments below!