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Travel to Europe

Kawaraban No. 6


by Kenji Shimizu

Just at the height of the Gulf War on January 31st I departed from Narita to Frankfurt/Germany.

In the Jumbo there were unusually few Japanese travelers, and the conditions allowed me to stretch out on the seats until Frankfurt. Despite the winter season normally the airplane would be crowded, so I was surprised about the unusual quietness in the airplane. I also expected traffic jams during this seminar because of the impact of the war, but airplane traffic was heavy, and on the first glance I was not able to notice anything special indicating the Gulf War. As usual Europeans swarmed around at every airport. By this as well I could notice the different perception of Japanese and Europeans. In general the Japanese feel the pride, which is common among homogeneous peoples, on the other hand they possess an island mentality, which does not accept deviations, and therefore somehow an extension of the approach to and the way of thinking is missing.

The inability to extent the approach to and the way of thinking seems to implicate a lack of creativity. The limited field of vision results in exaggerated reactions already in case of the smallest deviations within the field of vision. People quickly get used to changes, and things, which do not change, will be pushed out of the field of vision and will be forgotten forever quickly.

In this sense the traditional Japanese culture always exposed to the danger of final forgetting.

Why don’t we see in the case of the Gulf crisis a stronger impact on Europe as could be expected, because Europe is much closer to Iraq than Japan? It is not necessary to mention that the people are quite relaxed regarding the war, but also in newspapers and in television were no excessive reports. That is because of the distinct individualism.

The Europeans do not follow other people babbling unimportantly and blindly like the Japanese, and no rumors are scattered around. They are obstinate, act according their own will, and they possess a willfulness, which normally does not depend too much of other peoples behavior.

Since 1978 I travel for more than 13 years every year to seminars in Europe, and many students, who attend since the beginning, are still practicing. It is the typical for the Germans that many of them intensively assess a subject before they start with it, but after actually starting they continue until complete understanding of the subject.

For example, the driving abilities of German cars are excellent, and that is the result of the efforts of typical German masters.  From the standpoint of the Japanese the Germans are normally quite modest. Clothes and food are modest, and young people never drive exclusive cars. The living style is suited to the social status, and there is no useless over-exerting. And exactly these things are indicators for the strong roots of their individualism.

Reflecting on these things we notice that many Japanese of today are unsure regarding their own self, and therefore they constantly und restlessly investigate the conditions of their environment. But as long you are acting based upon such feelings, real life, freedom and happiness will be far away. Are these really the conditions for the renewal of the society, which neglects humanity?

© translated by Peter Nawrot 08/2006