On the night that Shinji and Hatsue agree to meet at the top of
the village steps, Shinji leaves his home two hours early.
He positions himself at Yashiro Shrine, only steps away from the
meeting point. As the time
nears, Shinji counts the eleven strokes of the clock.
At that instant, he moves to the top of the stairs in
anticipation of Hatsue. If
Shinji had come even one minute late, Hatsue might have been offended.
Japanese culture emphasizes punctuality and deadlines.
What Americans consider being “fashionably late,”
Japanese consider rebellious and egocentric.
Punctuality governs social interactions and preserves group
harmony. Without exception,
individuals expect others to be on time.
A recent Tokyo survey reported that in Japan only five percent of women
and four percent of men have wristwatches that are set inaccurately.
Researchers Robert Levine and Ellen Wolff rank Japan as the
country with the best “punctuality concept.”
Survey results indicate that Japanese college students are late
to class less than once per week, and teachers punish lateness by
lowering grades. Even among
close friends or lovers, like Hatsue and Shinji, lateness is an insult
in social settings. Punctuality dominates many facets of Japanese life.
Average walking speed, accuracy of bank clocks, and post office
efficiency are the highest in the world.
In business, although deadlines are important, they do not take
precedence over relationship building.
Japanese deadlines are realistic because, once established, they
are rarely broken. They
allow people enough time to build solid relationships and reach
consensus. During octopus
season, the fishermen in the novel awaken at 2:30 or 3:00 in the
morning, taking breakfast at a leisurely pace and allowing sufficient
time to get to the shore. Lateness
is seen as an insult to the boss, and, given the importance of
relationships, it is something employees want to avoid.
In the context of Japanese culture, Shinji’s acute awareness of
time is expected.
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Ellington, Lucien. Japan: A Global Studies Handbook. Santa Barbara:
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13 Oct. 2002.< http://in.news.yahoo.com/020817/64/1tvyj.html>.
Morrison, Terri, Wayne A. Conaway, and George A. Borden. Kiss,
Bow, or Shake
Hands. Holbrook: Adams, 1994.
Wing Chung, Rita. Punctuality. Spring 1999. ESL 1411. 13 Oct.