by Pradeep Singh Bisht, Consultant, bfsi consulting
Japan (Japanese: 日本 Nippon or Nihon; formally 日本国 Nippon-koku or Nihon-koku, “State of Japan”) is an island nation in East Asia. Located in the Pacific Ocean, it lies to the east of the Sea of Japan, China, North Korea, South Korea and Russia, stretching from the Sea of Okhotsk in the north to the East China Sea and Taiwan in the south. The Kanji that make up Japan’s name mean “sun origin”, and Japan is often called “Land of the Rising Sun”.
Japan is a strato-volcanic archipelago of 6,852 islands. The four largest are Honshu, Hokkaido, Kyushu, and Shikoku, which make up about ninety-seven percent of Japan’s land area. Japan’s population of 126 million is the world’s tenth largest. The Greater Tokyo Area, which includes the de facto capital of Tokyo and several surrounding prefectures, is the world’s largest metropolitan area, with over 30 million residents.
I got a chance to visit the Land of the rising sun in the last week of February with my colleague for a period of 5 weeks. The visit was to a new Oracle Flexcube partner with whom we had tied up for exploring business opportunities for Flexcube implementation in JAPAC region. The assignment was to discuss the features of Flexcube Universal Banking and Flexcube Direct Banking and share bfsi Software Consulting Private Limited rich experience of more than 7 years in Flexcube implementation at more than 30 locations worldwide.
We left via Air India after a long 8-9 hr flight from Delhi to Narita Airport. Narita is Japan’s main International airport located around 70 kms from the main city. The drive to the city was beautiful with lot of greenery which slowly turned into massive buildings, flyovers and metro trains. Since it was a Sunday the drive was smooth and quick. Being a Sunday there was nobody at the Hotel reception to hand over the access cards to our room. But we had got instruction to access the cards from the mailbox at the reception by turning the levers as per the password mailed to us. The hotels in Japan are compact and functional with all basic amenities like washing machine, vacuum cleaner, induction heater, cloth drier etc.
The next few weeks were spent at the partner’s office discussing the nitty gritty regarding reports, custom development, Flexcube show case environment preparation on Flexcube Universal Banking and Flexcube Direct Banking. During the weekends we got a chance to travel on Japan’s fabled Metro, visit Disneyland, go around shopping areas and try Japanese cuisine.
All the above activities made me more aware about the Japanese culture and practises some of which I would like to highlight below:
- Respect of rules and regulations : Here I would like to highlight simple facts like following of traffic rules. No vehicle ever crosses the Zebra line or crosses the red light. The drivers totally respect the right of way for the pedestrians. In escalators if we just want to move with the flow of the escalator then we need to stand on the left and leave the right side for the people wanting to walk up.
- Queues : Whether it is a restaurant, shopping mall, boarding a train etc the Japanese maintain perfect queue even if they are in a hurry. Even at the busiest hours on the train the boarding passengers only board as per the queue.
- Mobile phones : The Japanese have the latest mobile handsets and technologies(4G) but I had never seen the same being an irritant to fellow travellers or colleagues in office. In the train the expected behaviour is to keep the same in silent or in vibrator. Also very few people take calls on the train and finding somebody talking in a train is a rarity.
- Punctuality : Metro trains arrive or leave a station as per their timings and delays is a rarity. Staff at our partners office were well before time on their seats. Lunch timings were fixed and people left for lunch and were on their seats as per the company’s schedule.
- Productivity : Some of us are under an impression that spending a lot of time in office automatically implies higher productivity but I believe that it is not the case ever. But here in Japan I can say that the productivity was certainly very very high. Staff used to start their work before time itself and most of them only left their seats during lunch, for a quick walk till the vending machine to get a tea/coffee/juice or visit to the smoke room/wash room. Even the mobile phones very rarely rung or calls were made by the staff. In short I found no occasion on which I observed wastage of productive time.
- No tips : In most of the countries including India expecting a tip is like a birth right of the person providing service whether in restaurant, porter in a hotel where you have paid through the nose, valet etc etc.The service quality decreases if you don’t tip and visit that place again. But in Japan it is not considered polite to offer tips. I have not seen at any restaurant that the server expected any kind of tips. In spite of no tips the service at all places had been with a smile and highly polite as the motto of Japanese is that service is customer’s right for the price he is paying and Customer satisfaction is the only reward they seek.
- People : In addition to the above I found Japanese people highly helpful and warm unlike my earlier notions. They would help in the maximum way possible and if you are a foreigner then the level of help is much higher which we observed at various metros when we wanted help to take tickets or find the routes. Also our partner’s staff took out time on weekends to take to some places which we wanted to visit.
- Disaster planning : Japan is one country which is frequently hit by earthquakes and tsunami and the same has a high impact as the country is very populous in centres like Tokyo etc.. I found all the chairs had safety helmets behind them with a packet of medical essentials and also some food like biscuits in case of emergency. Also during the city visit I found that there are some lakes in the city or reservoirs where the water is kept fresh by changing every 2 days so that in case of emergency there is water availability for people stuck on roads and nearby offices. Also all vending machines whether cool drinks/food would automatically become free in case of emergency so that people stuck on roads or in offices etc have access to them.
In short in 5 weeks I realized why Japanese are no 1 in most of the things even though nature has been unkind to them regularly with earthquakes and tsunami is their planning, timeliness, productivity, respect of rules and regulations and their humble nature.
I look forward to imbibe, develop and sharpen some of the qualities to go further in life.