Hammer it down


Conformity is the word, and it is one of the strongest features of Japanese life. There's an old Japanese proverb that says, the nail that sticks up gets hammered down. This is one of the most frustrating things about living in Japan. People are always afraid of taking responsibility, so they never take the initiative. The only time things change is when someone at the top orders that change. Then people will scramble to try and get it done. Having this kind of top-down society is also another frustrating thing. The person who's at the top is often out of touch with the realities of the system. I believe that without the top-down system and this ultra-adherence to conformity, Japanese society would be able to advance much further. I love Japan very much but some aspects do need to change.


One of the things that I learned from living in Japan is that rulebreakers and innovators keep society progressing, and without them, change is often slow and cumbersome. Of course, being a rule breaker here in Japan is something close to suicide, as you will most certainly be shunned unless you are lucky enough to have some kind of fantastic breakthrough. There are a few rule Breakers in society, it's true, but they are not the majority. There is innovation in this country, but innovators are a rare breed. Maybe This is why Japan was the place that excelled at imitating and improving on products. The thing was already designed and only needed a few tweaks. There is minimal risk involved because there's nothing new being created. Yesterday I wrote that Japan is quite flexible and creative in the arts, but again this is only relegated to a small percentage of the population. If you go to jam sessions and nightclubs, you can find social misfits cooking up all kinds of crazy new things. But their numbers are few.


Society needs a diversity of thought. It needs to hear many voices, and it needs to argue out, work through, no, and reshape things for progress to happen. Here in Japan, there's very little diversity of thought. The good thing is if you can understand the Japanese way of thinking and the logic behind it, perhaps you can find the key to being successful in Japan. It might be a little bit more difficult for you if you decide to resist.


I am a natural born non-conformist. I do not like to follow the crowd, nor do I want to be pigeonholed, stereotyped, dictated to, or restricted based on the set of social norms. So, living in Japan has always been a bit uncomfortable for me. I love this country, but that's one thing about Japanese society that I have never come to and admire. Yes, of course, I fall in line and do my job just as well as anyone else. Still, once in a while, I can look around me and see that so many things need to be fixed, changed, improved upon. Then I feel the frustration of knowing that it will never happen unless someone at the top suddenly awakens and decides to make it happen. In the meantime, everyone is hiding from the responsibility of doing anything beyond the status quo. They all want to take the socially safe way, even if it means an eternal existence in mediocrity.


Anyone who's reading this, don't think that I'm talking about you specifically. I'm talking in general. Over the couple of decades that I've lived here, I've seen it in every single place I've been. That's why it always takes a million meetings to make a straightforward decision, and the first answer to doing anything new is usually no. If I had some sort of magic wand or Thanos’s glove with all the Infinity stones, I would snap my fingers and do away with this feature of Japanese society. Still, I would make sure to include wording so that safe, clean streets, excellent service, upstanding work ethic, and the credo of never becoming an imposition on others does not disappear with it.

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