I’ve been using my blog for work-related topics since I can remember. I don’t know why but recently, I had an itch to write about non-work related topics for no particular reason. I’m not sure if anyone would care or find my non-tech writing useful but I’ll definitely find it useful for me as a mark of my consciousness at a given time, so here we go.
Back in December, I was lucky enough to travel to Japan. This was my 4th trip to Japan. You might think that I’m overdoing it with Japan, given all these other awesome countries to visit in the world. But Japan is one of those countries where I wouldn’t mind traveling again and again. On every trip, I discover something new. I love Japanese culture, how Japanese know how to live in a community, how polite and considerate everyone is, the serenity of their temples, parks, the cleanliness and safety of their cities, the diversity of their food and much more.
On this trip, I arrived in Fukuoka, Japan via a ferry from Busan, Korea. I hadn’t heard much about Fukuoka before, so I didn’t expect much but I was pleasantly surprised how nice it was, as I was pleasantly surprised with many Japanese cities before.
After doing the usual touristy sightseeing on the first day, I found an izakaya, a Japanese bar, near my hotel for dinner. When I arrived, the owner unfortunately told me with hand gestures (he didn’t speak English) that it’s booked for the night. I was a little surprised as the place was almost empty. The second night, I arrived again at the same place and the same story. At that point, I concluded that the owner did not want a foreign guest as he didn’t speak English and probably didn’t want to deal with a foreign guest.
Thankfully, I had a backup izakaya marked in my Google Maps, so after a few minutes walk, I arrived there. This time, the owner was very welcoming. He immediately gave me a table and brought me an English menu, and tried to talk to me with his limited English to understand where I was from. The place turned out to be great with amazing food, good prices, and a very friendly owner.
As I was enjoying the food and the Japanese highballs, another group arrived asking for a table. The place was full and the owner could have easily said no. But instead, the owner did something amazing. Instead of saying a plain no, he told the group that the place is full, but he suggested another good izakaya nearby. Then, he opened up his phone, showed people where this izakaya was, and then he called the owner to ask if there’s a table for the group. When he confirmed with the other owner that there was a table, he let the group know and made sure they knew how to get there.
When I saw that, I felt a great sense of appreciation for the owner. He could have said a simple no, and nobody would have blamed him. Instead, he went out of his way and he made sure this group of strangers had a good place to go to that night. It was a small act of kindness but multiplied in many ways. The group who didn’t find a seat at the izakaya were happy and will probably try the place again some other night. The other izakaya owner who received the extra customers was happy. Unbeknownst to all, I was happy in my little corner to witness this unique part of Japanese culture.
I don’t know what this is called. Kindness Multiplied? Ripple effect of Kindness? Butterfly Effect of Kindness? I’m sure there’s a German word for it. Either way, this is the sort of kindness that we kind of lost in the West but still lives on in Japan. In the West, we tend to not care about situations that have no direct benefit to us. In Japan, people help each other without expecting anything in return.
When someone asks me “Why do you keep going back to Japan?”, this is one of the stories I’m happy to tell.