Japanese lessons on social graces

During a recent holiday in Japan, my wife and I saw acts of social grace in public places that we hope to see in Singapore.

For example, it is common for pedestrians and cyclists sharing public pathways there to give way to one another with consideration and courtesy.

At food outlets, the return of trays, bowls and other utensils to a collection point was common. There was no need for cleaners to collect the trays and utensils and to clean the tables.

Many public places that we visited were noticeably clean, with hardly any litter or rubbish bins in sight.

The clean culture appears to be not merely about waste disposal but also about minimising waste in the first place.

My wife and I took public transport throughout our stay.

Many public places that we visited were noticeably clean, with hardly any litter or rubbish bins in sight. The clean culture appears to be not merely about waste disposal but also about minimising waste in the first place.

Railway tracks connecting Japanese cities are shared by many different train and subway services.

For the two of us, it was a confusing array of interconnecting services running on the same tracks. However, we could rely on each train's punctuality, and could also ask the helpful Japanese commuters for direction.

Once, we were trying to figure out how to return to our hotel at a ticketing machine in a subway station in Osaka, and a Japanese man asked in English if we needed help.

To our surprise, he walked with us for about a kilometre to ensure that we got to the correct station for the train transfer.

There is much to learn from people in other countries when we look and see, hear and listen, and understand and appreciate.

Joachim Sim

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 26, 2017, with the headline 'Japanese lessons on social graces'. Print Edition | Subscribe