Forum: Learn from the Japanese

A station employee speaks with a man at Shinjuku Station in Tokyo on Oct 11, 2019.
A station employee speaks with a man at Shinjuku Station in Tokyo on Oct 11, 2019.PHOTO: AFP

Dr Seto Hann Hoi, in his Forum letter, contends that the unrelenting pressures of urbanised and competitive living in a compact environment contributes to selfish and uncaring behaviour (Pressure cooker society results in bad behaviour, Oct 15).

If so, why is Japanese society - even in ultra-urbanised parts like Tokyo's Shinjuku Station - markedly disciplined and civil?

During one recession, I witnessed homeless salarymen staying overnight in the station's underground premises.

However, there was no trace of their presence, no litter, no rubbish whatsoever, the next morning when train services commenced.

Japanese discipline regarding civility, in terms of noise, public hygiene, service and green consciousness, is to be envied.

Excuses for incivility, such as competition, cramped co-existing, joblessness and so on are seen as dishonourable and cowardly in Japan.

Japan enjoys an exceptional ethos.

It may be unfair to compare our nascent civility to their centuries of evolution and refinement. But to become gracious and understanding, who better to emulate?

Anthony Lee Mui Yu

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 18, 2019, with the headline 'Learn from the Japanese'. Print Edition | Subscribe