I was in Tokyo for the first time from February 1 to 4 and I finally understand all the rave about Japan.
|KOJIMA Kei Sculpture Exhibition in Ginza until February 9|
If I had to describe the Japanese in one word: HONOR.
They honor each other in all aspects of life. The honor guests by giving a little bow. We Filipinos, who are practically American, are not used to this system of respect for each other. The bow is an absolutely foreign custom, to our mind confined to the stage.
But in Japan, entering boutique shops, the receptionist would give a mini-bow (not necessarily standing up). When you ask anyone for directions, after the conversation, they give a little bow. When you pay the cab driver, after he gives you your change, the driver gives a nod-bow.
When I arrived, I had to take the airport limousine (a bus) to my host Prof. Ambeth Ocampo's flat in the Chiyoda-Ku area of Tokyo. When the bus arrived, I was surprised to find their "konduktor" bowing to the bus. It was honoring the bus' arrival! Same with their MMDA - a man stood in the middle of the road to halt cars and as cars approached, he would wave his arms and bow from the waist down.
They don't hand over money. There is a tray laid out for you to put the money on. And there is a system of returning change: After purchasing a few pasalubong items at a shop, Prof. Ambeth said (in Filipino), "Watch when he gives you the change. First he will count before you and hand you all the bills. Then he will hand over the coins." Sa atin di ba isasalpak lang lahat sa iyo, sabay-sabay, he observed.
Most notably, they honor their food. It is and well-thought out and painstakingly labored over until served. It's not fancy. It's just perfectly executed. For sushi or tempura, as they lay the food down before you, the chef will say, "This with sauce." Or "this, no sauce". Upon purchase of the "perfect strawberry", the tindero asks when you will eat it and advises when to consume the goods. (Pero dapat lang dahil pakshet ang mahal niya!) And the Tsukiji market is so clean - it did not have the stench of a fish market that we are used to at all!
A beautiful country taken good care of by a beautiful people. So rich in heritage and culture and tradition. And oh my goodness, such reverence for food!
I have come back to the Philippines enlightened and inspired. Thank you Tokyo for a wonderful experience!