1 Articles for 'Hachiko'

  1. 2007/12/06 Japanese people are creative - it's just that loyalty is being valued more (6)

Japanese people are creative - it's just that loyalty is being valued more

Other | 2007/12/06 20:07 | Web 2.0 Asia
(Disclaimer: This post doesn't have anything to do with technology or web 2.0)

Gen Kanai wrote an interesting piece titled "Why Apple is not Japanese".

Well, first of all, I don't think Japanese people are not creative - had they not been creative, probably some things that we take for granted today, instant Ramen for starters, wouldn't have existed at all.

But having said that, while I was in Japan, I made an (totally and entirely subjective) observation on a trait of the Japanese people, which in my thought helps making the Japanese look less creative than they really are.

I've been in Japan for only seven months, so there is no way I can ever claim myself as a "Japan expert". But this thing about the Japanese people that kind of jumped to my eyes was their tendancy to "keep doing" whatever they are up to, or whatever they thought they were destined to be up to.

And this tendency, in my opinions, comes from the fact that the Japanese society puts so much value on loyalty, commitment, "being there and doing his thing all the time", and so forth.

What does this mean? Well for example, let's see the "Hachiko dog" whose bronze statue is in front of the Shibuya station. The dog's good deed, as far as I know, was to wait for its missing owner on the same spot for many years.

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The Hachiko dog

On the other hand, a revered dog in Korea, named "Oh-su dog", saved its owner from a fire by wetting itself, jumping into the fire, and then rolling its body across the owner so he won't burn. The dog then finally perished, and the people in town later put up a statue to remember the dog.

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The Oh-su dog

Obviously I can't conclude everything only with these two dogs' stories, but what I take from these stories about two dogs is the difference in terms of where people put most value in Japan and in Korea - between a) being loyal and sticking to one's purpose/duty/destiny/job (in Japan), and b) putting the desired outcome first and coming up with various solutions, doing no matter what it takes (in Korea).

To put it rather simply (despite the danger of oversimplifying things), I think for Koreans "getting there" matters, while for the Japanese "continuing the things to get there" matters.

Another case in point (or what I think is the case in point) : The old Japanese movie "Potpoya (鐵道員)".

In this movie, there's this officer at a small, remote, almost deserted train station who keeps committing himself to the job although there's nearly no one who uses that station. As I saw the movie, I almost shouted to myself "What are you doing there? Quit the damn job and get the hell out of there..."

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I know it goes deeper than that and appreciate there's lots of meaning in there (Don't get me wrong, Potpoya is one of my favorite movies.) But I still can't help thinking it would be harder for me, a non-Japanese, to even understand (let alone getting moved by) the officer sticking to his job-cum-destiny no matter what.

Just like the case of Hachiko dog, the train station officer is also revered for "being there" all the time, no matter what. I think the Japanese people's work ethic, the obsessive pursuit of "Shikoto" or the "work" that almost looks to be ingrained in the Japanese DNA, could be looked at from this angle.

Going back to Gen's original post, well, creativity is not exactly in line with "keep doing it" or "being there no matter what" mentality. Creativity is about breaking the rules, being iconoclastic, stepping out of the box, etc.

You might call the Hachiko dog or the train station officer in Potpoya loyal, committed, and consistent. But it would be difficult to call them, well, creative.

So again, I believe the Japanese people indeed are creative, but as the society values consistent commitment so much that the creativity is not valued as much as it is in the US or even Korea.

Well, that was my totally subjective and personal observation - but then who am I to say? I was in Japan for only 7 short months :)
TAG , , Ohsu, Potpoya