Japan never ceases to impress me when it comes to working together to get things done. Since arriving here, I’ve become increasingly aware that America has an active attitude that once the time for something has passed, its over; “c’est la vie”. I’ve heard a lot of talk about “shoganai” culture in Japan- the Japanese word essentially meaning “It can’t be helped”- but when it comes down to it, until it’s absolutely too late, I’ve noticed a tendency for people to help in any way possible.
An example of this is when I first arrived in Japan; I got to Tokyo after a twelve hour flight from Chicago around 12 PM, as most of the airport was closing down. I spent the night in the terminal, as I didn’t bring as much cash as was recommended (Note to travelers to Japan: You’ve heard it before, but bring lots of cash. Especially in rural places, there will be very few opportunities to use foreign credit cards.) and wasn’t really feeling walking around Tokyo at 1 AM after 32 hours of flights; a decision I regretted at first, but since have come to realize that there’ll be plenty of opportunities for me to explore, so probably I don’t need to worry about it.
I got up the next morning ready to go, but couldn’t find my flight on any of the charts. I got in the line to check into a flight from my airline, but when I got to the end, they informed me I was in the wrong terminal, and needed to take a bus to the right one. I rushed over with my luggage, and got there just in time to see my flight was about to take off; and the line to check in was full of four different flights worth of passengers.
This is about where an airline worker recognized my distress, and pulled me out of the line to ask what flight I was on. Along with two other passengers, they rearranged the lines so everyone would get their flight on time, with efficiency that said this was a regular occurrence; although they had systems in place for quicker movement though the lines for people with express tickets, they also had systems in place for people who mistakenly slept in the wrong terminal.
Since then, there have been a few times I’ve been saved by the same preparedness for human error that keeps everything running smoothly for everyone in a way you don’t see as much in America. It serves as a good reminder that no matter how big the consequences of a problem are, if people are willing to work together and do their part to fix it before it comes to them, everything can go smoothly pretty much all the time for everyone; but everyone has to help as long as everyone needs it- so, 頑張って with that!