Common people leaving an impression

These may be ordinary people like the countless other ones in the country, but they leave a bit of an impression to a visitor like me.

A 10-year-old school girl who plays baseball and an old man selling sweet corns

The former was featured in a documentary programme on TV one morning. The latter we bought some sweet corns from. On the surface, they may not have much in common, but what impresses me is how well groomed and well mannered they are, and how they exude a sense of dignity and self-assuredness.

This says much about what a country like Japan has achieved. Unfortunately, one cannot say the same about China, even though it has just surpassed Japan as the world's second largest economy.

Two men in a car park

Not knowing how to operate a self-service parking machine which, like so many other things in Japan, has no English instructions, I asked two men for help. I approached the first one when he got off his car. "Do you speak English?" I asked. "No," he said, and quickly walked away.

I stopped the second one when he got off his van. He too spoke no English, but he was very patient and helpful. He tried to find out what the problem was and what it was I did not understand, and he tried to give detailed explanation, only his Japanese was all Greek to me. When it was obvious, after a few minutes of hard working but futile communication, that it was not going to work, the man left apologetically. You would think that the first man was rather curt, but later, when he returned and saw me in the car, he took the trouble to come forward and check to see that I was okay. This attempt to follow up was totally unexpected.

I have visited the country two times and I have yet to meet someone who is impatient or unhelpful when you ask for help. Two men even took some minutes to walk me to the place for which I had asked for direction.

Again, where I come from, such helpfulness is rather rare.

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