[About this blog] Inspired by local soccer player Mike Lim during my rookie reporter days at Singapore Polytechnic, I set up this blog in August 2002. I feel that blogging is a novel platform to document interesting facets of my life and my thoughts on certain issues. [Email blogger] ephraim@singnet.com.sg

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

[Uniquely Japan]
1. The Japanese are a unique people. For cleanliness and orderliness, they must rank No 1 in the world. They set high standards for themselves. I remember seeing the Japanese Ambassador in Singapore picking up satay sticks which others had dropped on the carpet at a National Day reception some years ago. Few of us would even think of doing that. At a Japanese restaurant, the waiter or waitress would carefully wipe off bits of food dropped on the lacquer tray or table even as you are eating as if they would mar the aesthetic enjoyment of your meal.

2. These characteristics are in their cultural DNA. An ancient Chinese account of the Japanese (in the Bei Wei Shu, if I remember correctly) described them as an unusually clean people. At the Ise Shrine, a temple is re-built every 10 years. A new temple replicating the old down to the last detail is carefully constructed. Once done, the old one is burnt. Decade after decade, the tradition continues unbroken.

3. At the official dinner hosted by PM Abe, I was told that the old building was dismantled from the old site and re-assembled 50m away to free up space for the new Prime Minister's Office.

4. Singaporeans who live in Japan learn to conform. It is an intense social culture. Our diplomats do the same, picking up their controlled gestures and body language. As they say, in Rome, do as the Romans do. Even when they are posted back to Singapore, it takes a while before they lose some of those Japanese characteristics.

5. PM's official visit to Japan was very successful. All the meetings went well. Our bilateral relationship has been raised to a new level. Last year, the Emperor and Empress visited Singapore. The Imperial Household made sure that nothing was left to chance. Every event was carefully planned for. Both the Emperor and Empress carried themselves with dignity and simplicity, leaving a very good impression with the Singaporeans they met. On Monday, they hosted PM and Mrs Lee to a private lunch at the Palace here in Tokyo. This was a special gesture, not normally done. Although the Empress has been unwell, she would only take leave from her official duties after the lunch.

Read my post on Japan-China Relations here


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