Sep 27, 2018
There are numerous articles, business and cultural alike, that talk about Japan and how Japanese people are not willing to take risks.
Japanese companies are not as eager to make deals with companies around the world, often requiring more planning or more information that others are willing to provide, causing a break in communication and tons of lost opportunities. Of course, one could argue that certain business catastrophes have also been avoided and we don't hear about them because, well, they didn't end up happening. (*puts on aluminum foil hat)
The following examples are a collection of instances from many people over the course of the few years I have been living in Japan. Although they may be personal in retrospect, I believe they have an underlying cultural source that is the result of Japan's attitude towards themselves and the world around them.
Typhoons and general fear of the weather.
There are people who listen to the weather forecast. There are people who look out the window and decide for themselves whether to go outside. There are others who look at both, and despite it being clear and zero wind, decide to stay home and wait for the typhoon to go to Hokkaido, even though they live in Kansai. And here I am talking about the city, which (as I have mentioned before) mostly has a flat surface, a distinct lack of trees and is often shielded from the wind by numerous high-rise buildings.
I have had people not come to work when a typhoon has just passed for fear of landslides and flood, despite not living close to either a river or a mountain. Just in case (just in case what?!?) and people just nod understandingly while I rage inside.
Personal information (Buy a shredder. Or hoard. Your choice)
Other people I have known don't throw away any receipts or mail with their name on it. You know, because of all the personal information on there. Instead they hoard the papers in their apartments until it gets spilled over and gets put in storage (or on the occasional cleaning spree, gets all thrown away which negates the whole thing).
You know, you don't want to risk your precious information being sifted through the trash.
When people gasp at your overloaded wallet filled to the brim with receipts and someone asks why you don't throw it away, apparently you can use the magic word “koujinjyouhou” (個人情報) and they will nod in understanding.
I say chuck it all in the trash (except the important ones of course)! If the FBI are monitoring me, there isn't much I can do anyway.
Hypochondria in Japan
People are afraid of germs. Of course you don't want to get sick. There is alcohol spray in virtually every entrance to every store. And in my first months in Japan (trying to do as the Romans do), my hands were getting rashes from the amount of alcohol I was spraying on them. Going into a store, leaving, entering a new one, leaving etc.
People also seem to go to the doctor way more often than I am used to from the old country. If you have a small cold, a fever or just any symptom, the “responsible thing to do” is to go to the doctor. And more often than not, they will prescribe you with antibiotics or other generic medicine with different names and before you know it, you'll have a collection of old medicine you can't bring yourself to throw away.
I often have to stop myself from getting into this kind of thinking. I prefer waiting and seeing because more often than not, I get better (except that one time when I didn't) and don't need to spend money, energy and time to go to a germ-filled doctor's waiting room.
And yes. I understand the thinking. It's better to be safe than sorry. I get that. But if you are limiting your own life to be extra safe, you are probably wasting valuable time and resources.
In other words, my biggest grievances in Japan come from wanting to take action, but being shot down and called careless or irresponsible.
On the other hand, I haven't gotten into any major accidents since coming to Japan, so maybe they're on to something…
Regardless! Japan! Please. Let's take some risks. I promise I'll wear a helmet.