DEVELOPING THROUGH CULTURE
Japan has a strong attachment to culture and I believe that makes them able to move forward their unique development agenda. Considering that the country has had its own setbacks (especially after Hiroshima and Nagasaki), I am of the view that strong use of cultural principles is the main strength of the Japanese socio-economy. First, my visit to the shrines and museums gave me a very vivid sense of patriotism in this society. The bridged, 2-tiger headed shrines in Osaka (Sumiyoshi-Taika), the Osaka castle and the strong patronage they attracted, was clear evidence to me that the Japanese had not forgotten their history. They believe that they are unique, have a history of resilient heroes in the past who were responsible for their civilization. It was also clear that they were willing to live and walk in those shoes, especially when I saw scores of very young children who thronged the shrines and museums flanked by their willing parents to makes sure their children never lost sight of their rich heritage. It identified that modernisation was very much part of Japan, but I believe that their modernisation was married with culture.
I sit in my Peace and Development class today and debate all the setbacks Africa has had with modernisation. But I think that, we in Africa find it difficult to modernise with citizen patronage because, this whole mordernisation strategy in Africa, and Ghana is ‘foreign’ to us. We have made our traditional and cultural features a preserve for expatriates and foreigners who visit on tourism. And we wait for foreign experts like Prof. Prodi to tell us that we need to adopt African Governance systems that are ‘African’ in culture. The technological designs in Japan themselves bear a semblance of history and tradition. Living in the comfortable house of my host Mr. Konjima, I saw a very unique link between how his apartment was compartmentalised, like what was in the ancient Japanese castles.
It was very difficult for me to resist bowing back at the Japanese on the street, at the hotel, and in official business places. You would think that for such an advanced country, this humble way of saying high would be extinct. But it was wasn’t. Curious about Japanese culture Melissa Yeung (a fellow TOYP member) and I, tried to find out from Sammy-San (a JCI host) how Japanese maintain their nature. It was interesting to find out that Japanese culture was taught in basic schools, and every Japanese child grew up with that mannerism. Clearly, the gap between the young and old Japanese was not as huge as that found in my Ghanaian society.
It is true that Japanese history and heritage has not been so clean and the post-war shrine is one of them. But most countries have had such a mixed past; and those things cannot be erased. But to move forward, there is the need to appreciate and understand the past, why it happened and how the wrong things could be prevented from recurring. Not holding on to the negatives, but using the positives to move forward. For example, I do not know whether food wastage can be linked to historic Japanese tradition, but it definitely is a negative trait of contemporary Japanese lifestyle. And I admonish the Japanese to shirk that lifestyle.
But I end this chapter with an indelible humbling experience I had. On the 7th of September 2013, I got out from my hotel room in the morning and when I was closing the door, I felt someone gesturing. Turning around, I saw one of the room service staff, a middle-aged woman, bowing at my presence. And we were about 20 meters apart. This gesture has become indelible in my memories of this journey and is a singular Japanese mannerism that stunned me. God bless her wherever she is; it was humbling. My next episode would feature what I find to be exemplary service in the Japanese style.
Thank you for reading and I hope you follow up on the next episode.