I have learned something new today, well it is something that I have been continuously learning. The Japanese (Okinawans included) are extremely polite and well-mannered. My friends and I were discussing the crime rates here on the island and it was pointed it out that there is very low crime here. There is probably more crime on base (vandalism, something stolen or gone missing) I wondered aloud why this was and was reminded that the Japanese culture puts a very high emphasis on politeness and respect. I knew this of course, it was one of the first things we were told when we came to Okinawa. The locals will bow when they say “Hello” (Konnichi wa) or when they are thanking you (Arigato). When you speak they will say “Hai” (which means yes) in order to let you know they are listening to you. These are considerate and well-mannered people. Even after the tragic earthquake and tsunami that hit mainland Japan in March, the Japanese citizens stood in line for hours, waiting for food and water. There was no fighting or looting or any thing of the kind. Those who had just suffered unimaginable losses waited patiently for his or her turn. When the rolling blackouts came, neighbors turned off their power and conserved their energy just so that there would be enough to go around.
In comparison, America looks like the wild-child of the world. During Hurricane Katrina, people were looting and fighting and hurting their own neighbors. The news said that it was basic instinct of some kind but it makes me wonder. I have always felt privileged and entitled as an American Citizen, we have a Bill of Rights that are guaranteed to us. Sometimes I wonder if we have forgotten the simple things like being polite, helping your neighbor and overall showing those manners that our moms and dads tried so hard to instill in us as we grew up. Sometimes I forget to hold the door behind me so that someone else coming up behind me won’t have it slammed in their face. I know I get angry when I sit in traffic and mutter that this is just ridiculous and people need to learn how to drive. Its just easy to forget that there are other people all around you and they deserve the same consideration that you do. Here in Okinawa, I am learning that it is important to remember these things. It is important to show respect and be polite and have a little more patience. It is the way things are done and the way things should be. We are all just people after all. Don’t we all deserve to be treated with kindness and consideration?
So on this beautiful day, (we had a small earthquake over night, but I slept through it) I am extremely grateful. Even though we are far away from home, I realize that not only can I feel safe and welcome in our temporary home, I can learn a few things a long the way.