It seems that wherever in Japan you go, you get bombarded with rules. Take your shoes off here, don’t stand there, don’t do that. There are signs everywhere that tell you what to do and what not to do. On the train, on the streets, in the supermarket, everywhere are signs. Is Japan the land of the rules? Why do those rules exist? And why are they so important to the Japanese? That’s what you will learn in this article: Why In Japan Rules Rule.
In Japan Rules Rule
Throughout my stay in Japan I noticed that in Japan rules in Japan are very important. These rules define how the Japanese society is structured and keep it organised.
Written rules, every country has them. It’s obvious, rules are important to keep a society going and keeping order. Without them there would be chaos. But in Japan they seem even more important. In front of every park there are at least two signs with “the rules for a safe and harmonic park”. It usually says things like: “Please don’t play baseball or football in a way that could bother residents.” Or that one should not play in a way that could be dangerous, like playing with stones or fire. Everything to keep the park safe and peaceful for everyone to use.
But it doesn’t stop there. Once you have read the rules and entered the park you will be greated again with another sign, saying “Let’s follow the rules and play in harmony!” It warns kids that playing with a scarf around their neck is dangerous, that they should take care not to bump into each other and that when it’s raining they shouldn’t run around, because they could slip and hurt themselves.
But parks aren’t the only place where you find so many of rules. There are rules and signs everywhere – on streets, on trains, in shopping centres, etc., making sure that everything runs smoothly and Japan stays a safe place.
And it works. They make Japan such a great place as it is. Hardly ever have I seen a country which is so peaceful, quiet and clean as Japan is. But it’s not only for the written rules. Another type of rule also plays a big role in keeping Japan in order.
Every country has “unwritten” rules. And you learn them by breaking. There are not many ways around that. And especially in Japan where taking care of others is regarded that highly, you have to take special care not the break those. A place where you have to take special care are trains. I don’t know what it is, but the Japanese seem to value their trains a lot. For example you shouldn’t eat on the train, or you shouldn’t blow your nose too loud and you shouldn’t make any noise. And that’s partly the reason why Japan’s trains are so great. They are clean and quiet, even in rush hour. And that thanks to the unwritten rules that everybody obeys.
I said earlier that you learn the rules by breaking. So I can tell you about my own experience. I was on my way to school. 7 o’clock, fully packed train, but no noise whatsoever. The train was making a halt at a station to let another train pass by. And the only thing you could hear was the announcement, that a train would soon pass, the following jingle and birds singing. Peace and harmony – when suddenly my phone rang.
You know Japanese people won’t get angry. Or at least they won’t show or tell you directly but they will stare at you. As if you were from some other planet. The look says: “What are you doing?!” better than any words could. And that’s exactly what happened. As if a foreigner wearing a school uniform wasn’t attention-grabbing enough, my phone rang and literarely everybody who wasn’t already looking at me before was now piercing me with their eyes, saying: “You have done something wrong!”
But hey! It’s my fault, my phone shouldn’t have rung in the first place.
The King of All Rules
Breaking it is the most easy and dangerous thing to do, but at the same time breaking this rule has the least effects. It doesn’t get you in trouble, it isn’t a law, people won’t even stare at you, they will do simply nothing. At least directly. Because by doing so, they would also break that rule. The rule that I am speaking of is: Do Not Inconvinience Others.
Why Are There so Many Rules?
Japanese society is all about not inconviniencing others. Japanese society is one huge hierarchy. Elderly people are mor important than you, people that have been working at the company longer than you are more important and in general other people are more important then you yourself. This principle makes Japan Japan.
You don’t want to cause any trouble for the people around you (read more). That’s the reason why people here work overtime, rather than going home for family dinner. It’s the reason why you will rather lie than say something that could hurt somebody (read more). This principle is also the reason why the Japanese don’t really express their opinion too often.
Why I Like the Rules in Japan
I made it sound like Japan is a bad place. But it obviously isn’t. I love Japan. And I think the rules make Japan such a great, peaceful country.
This simple rule let’s everybody live their life in a peaceful way, not interrupted by others. It’s also why in Japan everything runs so smoothly, the trains are always on time, there is no garbage on the streets and that Japan’s crime rate is one of the lowest in the world. Beause all of those things could inconvinience others or cause trouble.
But lastly, it‘s also the reason why the Japanese are one of the friendliest people I have meet. For me as a Swiss who maybe expresses his opinion a bit too often and too directly, this might seem weird. And I have broken that rule many times. But I find this simple rule is what really makes this country such a great place, so organised, clean and peaceful.
Switzerland can learn a lot from Japan in that aspect.
Thanks for Reading This Article
If you liked it please consider commenting or sharing it with your friends. What I wrote here is just what I experienced while living in Japan. So let me hear your thoughts, thank you.