By Dr. Joseph Ramez, Former Press and Media Counsellor to the Egyptian Embassy in Tokyo
I first arrived in Japan in August 2012 after being posted as Press and Media Counsellor at the Egyptian Embassy in Tokyo. I immediately was impressed by the manners and comity of the Japanese people, their respect to order, their teamwork, and generally their respect to others.
On the second day following my arrival, Mr Hisham El-Zemaity, then the Egyptian Ambassador to Japan, briefed me on the aspects of life in my new host country. Mr El-Zamaity said,”Here, you feel as if you are living on another planet. It is different from Europe and the United States. And this was exactly what I felt during the two years of my stay with my family in this country.
Unlike other countries, Japanese people are willing to sincerely do a favor such as carrying your luggage to your hotel, guide you to the subway or train station, or simply take the time to show you an address you are looking for, all without waiting for a fee or a tip in return. This is not always the case in many Western countries.
In addition, waiters at hotel restaurants and other eating establishments are not tipped for their services, which means providing good customer service without preference being shown to a particular customer. Interesting enough, one cannot differentiate between a manager and worker. When I first arrived with my family at our hotel in Tokyo’s Shibuya Ward, where we stayed temporarily until moving to our residence, the manager himself carried our luggage. We didn’t know at the time he was the manager which, to me, reflected the dedication to work and performance that we experienced throughout our stay by our Japanese hosts.
It was also fascinating for me to see how proud Japanese people are of their culture. I felt the extent of cordiality, friendship and respect of almost everyone I met and worked with either at their homes or places of work, including Japanese journalists, media professionals, people in research institutes, universities, and various other institutions.
Although Japan is more than 10,000 kilometers away from Egypt with a seven-hour time difference, one does not feel alienated. On the contrary, my family and I found a friendly climate and good treatment wherever we went, which is what encouraged my wife to study the Japanese language. I had a similar feeling when I visited an exhibition for Tutankhamun’s belongings (?) at Ueno Museum in 2013. I saw firsthand that Japanese people have a great respect and admiration of the Egyptian civilization. Two million people visited the exhibition in both Osaka and Tokyo.
What is most impressive is the behaviour of the Japanese people. Comparing them with neighboring countries, Japan always comes first in this regard. I would cut this sentence.
Another impression is the greenery of Japan in its public parks. It reflects, to me, intimacy, order and beauty. Japanese people celebrate flowers, especially the ‘sakura’ or cherry blossom flower in the spring.
Other aspects I was impressed by in my short stay in Japan are people’s dedication to work, fondness of reading and love of sports, “sumo” sport in particular with its distinctive rituals. I was always keen to watch sumo because of the footprint left by the Egyptian wrestler, Oosunaa Rashi, which means desert storm.
I also was impressed by the Japanese love of animals, dogs in particular, and the creative ways they look after them, cleaning them, cutting their hair, preparing special clothing for them when they take them out for a walk.
Another aspect of Japanese society is the care with which they treat children. I was very impressed when I visited a public school in Tokyo. I saw firsthand the emphasis placed on education and particularly identifying and fostering skills in sports, arts and culture. Japanese schools focus on teaching virtues, ethics, morals and good behavior before teaching science and mathematics. In brief, they fill children’s hearts with joy.
The respect for the elderly is another foundation of Japanese society along with respect for gender equality between men and women.
One also feels safe wherever you go in Japan. My xx-year-old/university student daughter, who visited us, not use our car but preferred to walking freely wherever she went.
Professionally, I did not find any difficulties in coping with the issues involving Japan and its Asian neighbors, or to know the nature and habits of the Japanese people. Although I am an African affairs specialist, I found Japan to be open and was able to study and learn all aspects of life.
Probably, all of the above are reasons why Japan has gained the respect and appreciation around the world along with its economic might, being the third largest economic power with superior companies to match those in the West that produce everything from cars to electronics.
In closing, I would like to extend my sincere gratitude, appreciation and respect to all the people I associated with in Japan. I would also like to wish the Japanese people, whose friendship with Egypt began in 1862 when the first mission of the samurai visited Egypt, continued progress and prosperity.
Hopefully, maintaining current relations between Japan and Egypt and exchanging mutual visits among our leaders, in addition to continuing existing important projects such as the Japanese university in Egypt, will continue and will grow.
It is my hope that the embassies of our two countries, in Tokyo and Cairo, will further cultivate and support our long-standing cultural ties including tourism. I want Japnese people to see Egypt as their ‘second’ country.
Thank you. You have a wonderful country.
Dr Joseph Ramez
Former Press and Media Counsellor to the Egyptian Embassy in Tokyo